Guam’s first line of defense from an incoming North Korean ballistic missile could very well be MQ-9 Reaper drones. This sounds very counter-intuitive, since ballistic missiles go very fast, and the normal cruising speed of the MQ-9 Reaper is 230 miles per hour.
But according to a report from DefenseOne.com, the secret was not in what the drones could shoot or drop, but instead in what the drones could see. In a June 2016 multi-lateral exercise involving Japan, the United States, and South Korea, two MQ-9 Reapers equipped with Raytheon Multi-Spectral Targeting System C were able to give Aegis ships armed with SM-3s more precise targeting data on the ballistic missile.
The Missile Defense Agency is hoping to reduce the number of drones needed by adding a targeting laser to the Reaper.
According to the Raytheon web site, the Multi-Spectral Targeting System, or MTS, is a combined electro-optical/infra-red system that also adds a laser designator. Various versions of the MTS have been used on platforms ranging from the C-130 Hercules cargo plane to the MQ-9 Reaper. The United States military has two general versions, the AN/AAS-52, or the MTS-A, and the AN/DAS-1, the MTS-B. The Air Force is also buying another Raytheon MTS system, designating it the AN/DAS-4.
One possibility to improve these airborne eyes could center around a jet-powered version of the Reaper called the Avenger. According to the General Atomics web site, the Avengr has a top speed of 400 nautical miles per hour, and can stay airborne for as many as 20 hours, depending on the version.
The Avenger could have the option of not just watching a launch, but maybe even hitting an enemy missile. According to a 2015 report from BreakingDefense.com, the Avenger could also carry the HELLADS, a high-energy laser system. Earlier this year, the Army tested a high-energy laser on the AH-64 Apache, combined with Raytheon’s MTS.