Airborne Sensors Eyed for Missile Defense Role

The Missile Defense Agency is planning to conduct an experiment next fiscal year to demonstrate the ability of an infrared sensor fitted on an Air Force MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft to support the shootdown of a ballistic missile, said Army Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, MDA director. This demo will occur under the auspices of the agency’s nascent Airborne Infrared, or ABIR, program, he told Senate lawmakers in testimony Wednesday. Initially, ABIR will entail integrating a sensor from Raytheon’s Multi-spectral Targeting System family onto an MQ-9. MDA will use the mated pair to validate that forward-based airborne assets can cue the Aegis sea-based ballistic missile defense system so that it may engage a threat missile in flight—and do so at greater distances than what otherwise would be possible, he said. The longer term objective is to integrate the ABIR sensor into a pod that can be attached universally to the wing of many types of aircraft, said O’Reilly. (O’Reilly prepared remarks)