Three Companies to Develop Communication System for US Navy’s MQ-9 Reaper Drone

The US Navy has awarded three companies an $8.4 million contract to support the US Marine Corps’ MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle.

Selected companies include L3Harris, Global Air Logistics and Training, and Northrop Grumman.

The contract calls for the development of an Airborne Network Extension Skytower II (ANE-STII) system for the MQ-9 drone.

The deal is part of a navy other transaction (OTA) agreement supporting R&D (research and development) and prototype development.

After the ANE-STII’s R&D phase is completed, the US Navy and US Marine Corps will conduct a prototype demonstration with a surrogate aircraft, followed by an MQ-9 unit.

Installation of the system into the MQ-9 is expected to be completed by 2026.

“This OTA allowed the contracts team to tailor the scope of the project and narrow down vendor capabilities by releasing a Statement of Need (SON) early on,” Multi-Mission Tactical Unmanned Air System (PMA-226) Team Lead Michelle Dutko said.

“The OTA also provided the opportunity for the team to develop the statement of work with vendor input therefore streamlining the normal processing time to contract award.”

Airborne Network Extension Skytower II

ANE Skytower II comprises onboard sensors and off-board systems that enable data cross-banding, translation, and retransmission through gateway-connected networks.

It increases battlespace awareness and information-sharing between the US Navy and Joint Force.

The STII is a network pod that supports the MQ-9 aircraft with “tactically relevant operational communications and data sharing capabilities” during intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations.

It is compatible with existing STI systems for aerial vehicles to obtain multiple waveforms.

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