General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has announced that the Australian Government has selected the company’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian unmanned aerial system (UAS) variant to provide the Armed RPAS (remotely piloted aircraft system) for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) under Project Air 7003.
GA-ASI first announced its intention to provide the ADF with a MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) RPAS during AVALON 2017. This event also saw the launch of Team Reaper Australia, a group of Australian industry partners providing a range of the innovative sensor, communication, manufacturing and life-cycle support capabilities for the Reaper family of RPAS. The partners currently include Cobham (lead industry partner), CAE, Raytheon, Flight Data Systems, TAE Aerospace, Quickstep, AirSpeed, Collins Aerospace, Ultra, and SentientVision.
The development of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian variant is the result of a five-year, company-funded program to deliver a UAS that meets the stringent airworthiness type-certification requirements of NATO and civil aviation authorities throughout the world. SkyGuardian will incorporate the GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid (DAA) system, which consists of air-to-air radar, Traffic alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II), and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). The MQ-9B has been designed for all-weather performance, featuring lightning protection, damage tolerance, and de-icing system.
The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is also acquiring the MQ-9B as part of its Protector RG Mk1 program, with the first aircraft scheduled for delivery in the early 2020s. The Government of Belgium has approved Belgian Defense to negotiate for the acquisition of MQ-9B to meet the nation’s RPA requirements.
Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI, commented: “We have worked closely with the ADF to determine the right RPAS to meet their needs,” said “MQ-9B will provide the all-weather, multi-mission support, and interoperability that the ADF requires. We look forward to working closely with our Australian industry partners to provide a highly capable RPAS to the ADF, while creating high-tech jobs in Australia.”