MQ-X To Be “Test Bed” for Modular UAV Fleet

The Air Force has ambitious plans to build a modular plug-and-play fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles, senior leaders said at the service’s unmanned aerial systems flight plan rollout July 23 at the Pentagon, with the cornerstone being the MQ-X—the successor platform to today’s MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers. “We’ve already begun work, in fact, the initial capabilities document for the MQ-X has already been completed and now it’s beginning its way through the process,” said Col. Eric Mathewson, commander of USAF’s UAS Task Force. He called the program a “test bed” for the concepts of modular unmanned fighters and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance, electronic attack, mobility, and other mission aircraft. While too early in the development process to say definitively when the Air Force expects to see the new-style UAVs show up on the flightline, Mathewson said the analysis of alternatives is beginning soon and expects to have the document complete by late summer or fall of 2010. The service will examine a range of capabilities for the aircraft, he added, including low observable technology. “It is on the table,” Mathewson said of stealth capability for the MQ-X. “In the analysis, they’ll come to the conclusion based on the requirements that are laid out.”