The United States Air Force has married the formidable with the fuzzy in their recent tests of electronic warfare technology on a popularly employed drone.
The 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron finished preliminary ground and flight evaluations in April, focusing on an MQ-9A Reaper equipped with the “Angry Kitten” ALQ-167 Electronic Countermeasures Pod. This device, resembling a cat in shape, is a bundle of tech housed within a tube and was tested at the Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The Reaper, a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems product, is typically deployed for surveillance or intelligence gathering. The ‘Angry Kitten’ pod originates from tech developed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute. The institute characterized the project in 2013 as a blend of commercially available electronics, proprietary hardware, and cutting-edge machine learning to ensure adaptability.
According to Maj. Aaron Aguilar, assistant director of operations for the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron, aims to widen the range of missions that the MQ-9 can carry out. The widespread and constant presence of MQ-9s on the field enables them to cover potential capability gaps in traditional platforms.
Electronic warfare (E.W.) is the unseen battle to control the electromagnetic spectrum, a crucial element for communication with allies, suppression and identification of adversaries, and weapon guidance. U.S. defense officials assert that control of this spectrum is crucial in any potential conflict with major national security threats like China or Russia. According to the 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Michael Chmielewski, incorporating electronic attack capabilities on a Reaper drone is exciting. The Air Force had previously utilized ‘Angry Kitten’ in training exercises where it was used to simulate electronic assaults on trainees.
Chmielewski believes that sustained disruption over fifteen hours, combined with a significant force, could force an enemy to react and bolster strategic deterrence.
The ‘Angry Kitten’ moniker is an amalgamation of a lighthearted joke and the design’s objectives, per a 2013 Newsweek report. Contrary to the usual intimidating names seen in military hardware like ‘Hellfire missile,’ ‘Predator drone,’ and ‘Stryker combat vehicle,’ ‘Angry Kitten’ stands out. Despite its quirky name, Roger Dickerson, a senior research engineer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute’s Sensor and Electromagnetic Applications Laboratory, emphasized in 2015 that the pod symbolizes highly advanced technology.
Dickerson stated that their focus has been on enhancing the capabilities and preparedness of combatants in their sponsor organizations, namely the Army, the Navy, and particularly the U.S. Air Force’s air combat community.