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Avalon 2019: GA-ASI looks to enhance Australian Reaper engagement

24 February 2019
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In November 2018 Australia selected the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper to meet its armed UAV requirements. A decision on the Reaper variant – either the MQ-9A or the MQ-9B – is expected by mid-2019. Source: General Atomics

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) is expected to enhance its industrial engagement in Australia following Canberra’s announcement in November 2018 that it had selected the company’s MQ-9 Reaper to meet requirements under Project Air 7003 Phase 1 for an armed medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

GA-ASI’s industrial strategy to support its Australian Reaper programme is built around a grouping of firms known collectively as Team Reaper Australia (TRA). Warren Ludwig, director of international strategic development for Australia and Southeast Asia at GA-ASI, told Jane’s before the 2019 Avalon Airshow that it is likely that TRA will be “refined” as the programme matures.

“TRA can be expected to be refined as the project further develops,” said Ludwig. “GA-ASI is currently in discussion with a range of academic and research facilities to partner in areas including ISREW (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and electronic warfare).” The TRA was announced at the 2017 Avalon show and has since grown to encompass 10 companies, he said. “Discussions with [the Department of Defence – DoD] continue on the acquisition and support roles for these teammates,” said Ludwig.

He added that GA-ASI is also currently drawing up a detailed workshare project through which TRA will engage with the Australian Reaper programme. “It is too early to define the percentages for local content [and] support as this will be affected by the variant of aircraft selected and the [DoD]-selected development and support options,” said Ludwig. “GA-ASI is working closely with [the DoD] to develop a robust and meaningful Australian industry programme.”

Ludwig also confirmed that the two Reaper variants under consideration by the DoD for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF’s) Project Air 7003 requirement include the MQ-9A, which is operated by the US Air Force (USAF) and the “newer and more capable” MQ-9B SkyGuardian platform, which has been ordered by the UK Royal Air Force (RAF).

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