General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. has been notified by the governments of Belgium and Australia that is has been selected to provide remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) for the defense forces of the two countries.
Belgian Defense has been approved to begin negotiations with the U.S. government to acquire the MQ-9B SkyGuardian unmanned aircraft system (UAS). The Australian Defense Force (ADF) has selected General Atomics to provide an armed RPAS—the MQ-9 Reaper—under its Project Air 7003.
The MQ-9B SkyGuardian is the latest generation of General Atomics’ multi-mission Predator B fleet. It’s the result of a five-year company-funded effort to deliver a UAS that can operate in non-segregated, civil airspace and also meet NATO’s airworthiness type-certification requirements. In addition, the SkyGuardian has been selected by the British Royal Air Force for its PROTECTOR RG Mk1 program.
“We look forward to providing our unmanned aircraft systems to meet Belgium’s mission requirements, while also supporting the NATO alliance,” said Linden Blue, General Atomics CEO. “We are also eager to work with our industrial partners in Belgium on a host of activities ranging from manufacturing to maintenance.”
Australia will join other top military forces flying the armed Reaper, a medium-altitude, long-endurance platform. General Atomics’ Predator and Reaper unmanned systems recently surpassed five million flight hours.
Team Reaper, a group of 10 Australian industry partners, will provide a range of sensor, communication, manufacturing and life-cycle support capabilities. These companies include Cobham, CAE, Raytheon, Flight Data Systems, TAE Aerospace, Quickstep, AirSpeed, Rockwell Collins Australia, Ultra, and SentientVision.
“We’ll work closely with Team Reaper Australia partners to provide a highly capable and affordable RPAS to the ADF, while creating meaningful and enduring Australian jobs,” Blue said.
General Atomics also announced that its second MQ-9B SkyGuardian—YBCO2—aircraft has received a special airworthiness certification in the experimental category from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The company-owned UAS joins the first SkyGuardian in support of the MQ-9B development program. This certification permits YBC02 to conduct flight operations in the national airspace as a civil aircraft.
“The certification helps us towards our goal of full integration of RPA into the national airspace system,” said David Alexander, General Atomics’ president of aircraft systems. “It will also help us in continuing the development of MQ-9B for our customers, the Royal Air Force and Belgian Defense.”
The SkyGuardian features endurance of more than 40 hours; rapid integration of new payloads using nine hardpoints; all-weather, short-field, self-deployment through SATCOM controlled automatic takeoff-and-landing capability; Lynx multi-mode radar; and a detect and avoid system. General Atomics designed the MQ-9B as the next generation of multi-mission Predator B fleet.
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