Gorgon Stare, Sentinel, and MQ-X

Gorgon Stare, a wide-area surveillance system carried experimentally by MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft in Afghanistan, isn’t necessarily going to make a big reduction possible in the number of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance RPAs, said Col. Brandon Baker during a press briefing Friday to roll out the Air Force’s new RPA Vector roadmap. Baker said Gorgon Stare “solved a unique problem” in Afghanistan, but may not be broadly applicable to USAF’s future needs. A second iteration of the pod has been tried operationally and will be followed by a six-month evaluation to see how its capabilities could be used in future versions of the Reaper, he said. USAF officials could not discuss the niche of the classified RQ-170 Sentinel stealth RPA in the Vector; Col. Ken Callahan, with the RPA capabilities office, said while it is a USAF program, “It’s not in our portfolio.” The MQ-X—a putative stealth follow-on to the Reaper, which has been playing budget peek-a-boo for several years, seems to be part of the Vector, but is morphing into a modular system adaptable to a range of missions. Fundamentally, USAF needs a multipurpose RPA that can survive and operate in a “highly contested” anti-access, area-denial environment.