General Atomics – Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) has been awarded a contract for the production of the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft in the fiscal 2018 production configuration.
The firm-fixed-price contract, worth around $263.4 million, was awarded by the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
The contract work will be performed at Poway, California, and is expected to be complete by Nov. 30, 2021.
General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (also called Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations, developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) primarily for the U.S. Air Force (USAF).
The MQ-9 and other UAVs are referred to as Remotely Piloted Vehicles/Aircraft (RPV/RPA) by the USAF to indicate their human ground controllers. The aircraft is capable of being armed with air-to-ground missiles (AGM) and laser-guided bombs (LGB) and testing are underway for incorporation of air-to-air missiles (AAM).
The MQ-9 is a larger, heavier, and more capable aircraft than the earlier General Atomics MQ-1 Predator; it can be controlled by the same ground systems used to control MQ-1s. The Reaper has a 950-shaft-horsepower (712 kW) turboprop engine (compared to the Predator’s 115 hp (86 kW) piston engine). The greater power allows the Reaper to carry 15 times more ordnance payload and cruise at about three times the speed of the MQ-1. The aircraft is monitored and controlled by aircrew in the Ground Control Station (GCS), including weapons employment.
The USAF operated 195 MQ-9 Reapers as of September 2016, and plans to keep the MQ-9 in service into the 2030s.