USAF 'Reaper' drones bag 'Angry Kitten' electronic warfare pods

The United States Air Force has begun testing Georgia Tech Research Institute's "Angry Kitten" electronic warfare pods on "Reaper" drones.
Christopher McFadden
Image of an "Angry Kitten" pod mounted on a Reaper drone.

General Atomics 

The United States Air Force (USAF) has decided to begin arming its General Atomics MQ-9 "Reaper" drones with Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) ALQ-167 "Angry Kitten" electronic warfare pods. A decade-old technology, the pods will provide the drones with vital electronic warfare countermeasure capabilities currently sorely lacking. This comes almost a year after the Air Force announced its intention to install the same device on its F-16 fleet.

"Angry Kitten" incoming

The "Angry Kitten" was developed by the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) in 2013 and has received various upgrades over the years. It was initially designed to be an autonomous and adaptable device with unique features not found in typical radar jammers. According to GTRI, the first "Angry Kitten" was created as a radio frequency jammer using a combination of commercial electronics, customized hardware, and innovative machine learning software that enables it to adjust to advanced electronic warfare. "Angry Kitten" can independently evaluate and react to new opposing technology by being trained on various radio-electronic attack and protection techniques.

According to the USAF, the "Angry Kitten" device has been highly effective since its creation. It has shown the capability to quickly adjust to new electronic warfare measures and can be rapidly reprogrammed. These results were observed during testing conducted last year.

It has now been reported that the USAF has modified the technology to be used as an offensive weapon after pressure from senior staff. Keith Kirk, the experiment project manager for the USAF's App-Enabled Rapidly Reprogrammable Electronic Warfare/electromagnetic Systems campaign, stated that this had been documented in the strategic guidance over the past four years. "This is the first operational assessment of a potentially deployable and combat-ready electronic warfare system for fighter aircraft moving in that direction," Kirk said after testing in 2022. And not a moment too late.

During a recent electronic warfare meeting hosted by the Hudson Institute think tank, Bacon expressed concern that the United States is falling behind other countries' electronic warfare capabilities.

Too little, too late?

"By the time I was a colonel, a brigadier general, it was clear we let things atrophy to a large degree, and Russia and China in many areas had surpassed us because they were focused on it," Bacon said. Before his retirement in 2014, the retired USAF Brigadier General was the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance strategy director for the US Air Force. "We're just too slow. It shouldn't take us five years, six years to turn the ship around," Bacon explained. 

"The Air Force plans to continue flying with Angry Kitten Pods over the next 12 to 24 months to develop the best Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) to leverage EW capabilities to support the Joint Force and partner nations," explains General Atomics.

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