May 4 (UPI) -- The 174th Attack Wing is working with multiple Pentagon contractors and academic researchers to establish new capabilities for the MQ-9 Reaper drone aircraft, the Air National Guard announced Tuesday.
According to a press release from the wing, the new capabilities include battlefield and airspace communications enhancements as well as target identification tracking and processing.
Three pods -- the Freedom Pod, Centerline Avionics Bay Pod and the REAP Pod -- are scheduled demonstrate their capabilities onboard a 174TH ATKW MQ-9 during Pacific Command's premier Exercise Northern Edge in Alaska.
That exercise, which started Monday, lasts through May 14, and involves some 15,000 sailors, airmen and Marines.
The MQ-9, described by the Air Force in 2006 as the "first hunter-killer UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle]," first flew in 2001, and was introduced into service in 2007.
Last month the U.S. Air Force announced that some existing versions of the MQ-9 Reaper will receive retrofit enhancements already installed on versions currently in production by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.