The US Air Force intends to receive an MQ-Next drone from Northrop Grumman as soon as possible. The combat unit will be put into service and replace the MQ-9 Reaper. The need for a replacement became apparent after the drone of this model was shot down in the sky over Libya.
The American drone was shot down in November 2019 in Libya, 80 km from the capital Tripoli in the sky above Tarhunah, where an active phase of internal military conflict had been taking place. According to Rear Admiral Heidi Berg, the aircraft was liquidated using the Panzer-C1 anti-aircraft missile and gun system. The US State Department stated that the drone was destroyed by the Wagner military company.
The Pentagon has been extremely concerned that the drones shot down could fall into the hands of Marshal Haftar’s foreign allies, including Russia, which would have allowed them to take over the technology. According to the military, the Russian Panzer-C1 MRBMs, which are in service in many countries, will now be able to shoot down the American MQ-9 Reapers with ease. This failure forced the US Air Force Command to urgently seek a replacement.
As a result, it was decided to order a more advanced UAV model. An order has already been signed to stop purchasing the MQ-9. Funding has been provided for the MQ-Next UAV project, but there is still no understanding in the US Air Force about what characteristics a drone should have in order not to repeat the Reaper’s bitter fate.
As Richard Sullivan, Northrop Grumman Vice President for Programme Management, said in an interview of The Drive magazine, work is underway to develop interlinked drone systems, and this is the main difference between the drone of the future and its modern counterparts. He argued that MQ-Next will build on existing models, but much will depend on the requirements of the military, which are not yet fully articulated.
The official demonstration of the combat vehicle is scheduled for late 2022.
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