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Canadian MQ-9 Reaper operational capability delayed to 2028

One of the two MQ-9A Block 5-15 air vehicles currently operating with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1). The accompanying artist's rendering shows an MQ-9A Block 5-25 in VMU-1 colours. The SkyTower ANE pod is carried beneath the MQ-9A's left wing on stores station 2. (NAVAIR)

Canada's planned purchase of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper under the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) programme has been delayed from 2025 to 2028, the country's Department of National Defence (DND) told Janes on 27 November.

GA-ASI was the sole respondent to a solicitation issued in February 2022. Although the DND intends to sign a contract worth up to CAD5 billion (USD3.7 billion) with GA-ASI in fiscal year (FY) 2023 (which ends in calendar year March 2024), MQ-9's initial operational capability (IOC) qualification is delayed from FY 2025–26 to FY 2028 citing a need for additional development work.

“The Canadian RPAS configuration will require significant development work in order to address RCAF requirements which differ from our allies' requirements,” the DND said. “For example, the need to operate at high northern latitudes, including in the Arctic, requires the use of satellites and aircraft antennas and communication components not previously integrated on the MQ-9. Similarly, additional testing and qualification work will be required to ensure the RPAS can be operated and maintained in Canadian climatic conditions.”

“There is also some developmental effort required to integrate the Canadian-made Wescam MX-20 EO/IR [electro-optic/infrared] sensor onto the platform. Other examples include work required to develop a training solution tailored to RCAF requirements, and airworthiness certification required to support the RCAF concept of operations,” the DND added.

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