The US Department of Defense (DoD) has confirmed that the US Air Force (USAF) is flying the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in Afghanistan equipped with the Gorgon Stare wide-area airborne surveillance (WAAS) system.
The confirmation came in the form of an image that was posted on the DoD's Flickr site that showed a Gorgon Stare-equipped Reaper of the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron (ERS) departing Kandahar Airfield on 5 December. The accompanying caption names the Gorgon Stare as being the payload pictured.
While the USAF has previously issued two images of the Reaper fitted with Gorgon Stare in Afghanistan (in August 2012 and September 2014), on both of those occasions the images were believed to have been released in error. Even though the images showed the Gorgon State in-theatre, the USAF did not name the system or respond to requests for confirmation.
The Gorgon Stare Increment II payload, which is shown in all three of the images so far released, comprises two underwing pods, one of which houses an electro-optic (EO) camera, the other an infrared (IR) camera (the baseline Gorgon Stare has a different configuration, comprising a single podded EO/IR turret with a second pod for the datalinks).