Under the US Air Force's $2.5 million "Predator Surrogate" program, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is modifying two Cessna 182s to hold UAS targeting systems under their left wings, allowing the piloted aircraft to take the place of UAS in training exercises in the US.
CAP says that once the pod is in place, "the CAP plane-turned-Surrogate Predator" will have the capability to lock onto and track targets, with the ultimate goal of broadcasting streaming video.
Predators and Reapers not only provide aerial surveillance to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, they also carry laser designators and several types of bombs and missiles, including the AGM-114 Hellfire.
Predators and Reapers are so popular that there aren't enugh to use here in the states for training.
"Due to the Air Force maximum surge effort to provide more MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper support to ground units in CENTCOM, there are no Predator or Reaper forces available to support pre-deployment exercises such as Green Flag, which focuses on air-to-ground operations," says Major Matt Martin, chief of the Predator/Reaper Ops Branch of Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base.
Green Flag exercises typically involve 11 days of flying, 8 hours a day, at least 10 times a year and include "hunter-killer scenarios," where the surrogate aircraft first surveys targets and then provides full-motion video to the brigade combat team, says CAP.
Once a target is identified by the ground commander as "hostile", CAP says the 182 "will dynamically re-task into the strike role and coordinate with a forward air control to simulate the delivery of precision ordnance onto a target".