With a worldwide fleet of more than 400 MQ-9 Reaper/ SkyGuardians, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GAASI) is hoping that Canada will also select the type to answer its remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) requirement, a solution for which is expected to be selected some time before 2022.
To bid for the RPAS contract, and to deliver it if successful, GA-ASI has formed Team SkyGuardian Canada (TSC, Booth 1430). The team includes Canadian companies L3 Wescam as electro-optic sensor provider, MDA for data exploitation technologies, and CAE, which is GA-ASI’s worldwide training partner for the MQ-9.
TSC is expected to grow as it adds more Canadian companies, including SMEs. Not only would such companies benefit from any Canadian contract, but also gain access to the global MQ-9 fleet and its operators, expanding opportunities for export.
The RPAS requirement envisages an armed strike capability from the outset, for which SkyGuardian is already cleared with a range of weapons. Following development work performed for the UK’s STANAG 4671-compliant Protector programme, SkyGuardian can be certificated with co-operative and nonco- operative detect-and-avoid technologies for operations in non-segregated airspace, an important consideration for certain missions such as maritime domain awareness. GA-ASI also asserts that SkyGuardian is ideally suited to all-weather operations in harsh environments, enabling it to undertake Arctic patrol missions.
Perhaps SkyGuardian’s most important attribute in terms of the Canadian requirement is its interoperability in the ‘Five Eyes’/NORAD security environments. The MQ-9A Reaper has been in US service for many years, while the UK and Australia have selected the SkyGuardian derivative. A number of other NATO nations operate MQ-9 variants.
No details of required numbers have been revealed for the Canadian RPAS programme. It is expected instead to outline a set of mission requirements, with bidders to decide how many platforms are required to fulfil those needs, also taking into consideration the requirements of training, attrition and surge capability.