MQ-9 Reaper UAV may have new role as missile defence sensor

The Pentagon has announced that it could begin to integrate unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as yet another element tracking ballistic missiles into the US Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) layered system within two years.

MQ-9 Reaper UAV

USAF

The MDA has already made use of the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper UAV, which carries the Raytheon MTS-B electro-optical/infrared sensor, to ''observe'' at least one missile defence target in April, according to agency director US Army Lt Gen Patrick O'Reilly.

Though not mentioned, it could have been the North Korean ballistic missile test in April.

According to Gen O'Reilly, data from these initial observations have indicated that the UAV as a sensor is suitable to help provide tracking data of ballistic missiles early in flight.

The Reaper's sensor is able to deliver the ''same type of tracking data that we are looking for from our radars [in] precision and intensity,'' Gen O'Reilly said. ''It has proven to be extremely accurate and extremely sensitive. So, there is very little modification we see that will be necessary to the UAVs themselves.''