March 7, 2015: Strategy Page
Britain, France, Italy and the U.S. are forming an international MQ-9 Reaper users group to make it easier for all users (soon to expand to Netherlands and a few more countries) of the MQ-9 to quickly share information on maintenance, tactics and operations in general. This would allow new ideas that work to quickly become known to all MQ-9 users.
Training is a particular problem. For example, the MQ-9 is not yet cleared (by government aviation authorities) to operate in British air space. So the ten British Reapers recently withdrawn from Afghanistan are grounded until they can find some hospitable air space to operate in. The British Reapers might end up in a Middle Eastern base, for actual recon work as well as training for operator and maintenance crews.
While the Reaper manufacturer serves as a clearing house and common source for maintenance information (as is common with all aircraft) the different countries using the UAV develop local variations on the standards that are often an improvement on the standards. Eventually the manufacturer becomes aware of this and after some time lets other users know. The new user group spreads information like that immediately via a secure form of communication (like an encrypted version of the Internet the U.S. Department of Defense has been using for over a decade).
The RUG (Reapers Users Group) would work mainly because all the current users and the most likely future ones are NATO members. That means the RUG members already have arrangements for sharing classified information and technical data in general. The U.S. recently eased the export restrictions on where Reaper could be exported to so future Reaper users won’t automatically be invited to join. No problem there because many other complex American military systems that were widely exported have formal and/or informal users groups. With the Internet that was unavoidable. But with a formal users group you can freely exchange everything and when it comes to useful tip from those with combat experience, this can be a matter of life or death.
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