The U.S. Air Force is considering replacing the Raytheon [RTX] Multispectral Targeting System-B (MTS-B) on the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper and integrating new reconnaissance pods on future unmanned aerial vehicles (UAS).

“The Air Force Materiel Command, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) in support of the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance/Special Operations Forces (ISR/SOF) Directorate is seeking information in support of market research for potential alternative and improved solutions for Electro-optical (EO) and Infrared (IR) sensors to primarily support the MQ-9 Reaper and potentially other Medium Altitude Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” AFLCMC said in a request for information (RFI) last month.

AFLCMC wants response white papers on the RFI by Apr. 9.

“As the threat environment continues to evolve and to be relevant in the future fight, potential solutions are expected to employ, to the maximum extent possible, any/all advanced technologies that support the principles of the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS),” per the RFI. “This primarily includes, but is not limited to Autonomy, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Digital Engineering, Open Mission Systems (OMS) and Attritable Technology, among others.”

The Air Force said that it would like to achieve initial operational capability for the pod on the MQ-9 between the first quarter of fiscal 2022 and the third quarter of fiscal 2025 and to achieve IOC for EO/IR solutions on other UAS by the third quarter of fiscal 2030.

AFLCMC said that MTS-B has a maximum power of 2200 watts, a 250-pound weight, and a turret diameter of 22 inches, but the Air Force set out no size, weight and power (SWAP) limitations in the RFI, as AFLCMC said that it will await industry’s white paper ideas.

However, AFLCMC did say that it will not accept wing-mounted EO/IR sensors as solutions if the EO/IR RFI becomes a research and development/acquisition program.

“The EO/IR sensor needs to be gimballed to provide lower hemispherical coverage beneath the platform,” per AFLCMC answers on March 24 to industry questions. “Preference is for a solution that replaces the current MTS-B, although the government is receptive to alternative mountings and EO/IR solutions for potential future roadmap consideration.”

Raytheon has said that MTS-B supports long-range surveillance, target acquisition, tracking, range-finding and laser designation for Lockheed Martin [LMT] AGM-114 Hellfire missile and all U.S. military service and NATO laser-guided munitions.

Last year, the company said that it had delivered more than 3,000 MTS sensors to U.S. and international militaries and had integrated 44 MTS variants on more than 20 aircraft, including the MQ-9, the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator and MQ-1C Gray Eagle, and the Lockheed Martin MH-60 Black Hawk and C-130 transport.

“The MQ-9 enterprise continues to execute the Hunter-Killer ISR mission set across the globe, servicing multiple Combatant Commanders in various Areas of Responsibility,” AFLCMC said in last month’s RFI.

“The Hunter-Killer mission set provides a unique capability of combined ISR and Strike attributes in a single platform fulfilling the highest demand of all Air Force assets through vast capacity,” per the RFI. “As a critical component of the current MQ-9 weapon system, the EO/IR sensor’s capabilities are integral to the combined ISR and Strike mission. As such, the Air Force is interested in EO/IR sensor capabilities that are currently available with minimal integration cost to the current platform, as well as researching alternative ways to support future lower-end, lower-cost ISR missions which may include initiatives to modernize, augment, and/or replace existing systems.”