THREE SEPARATE contracts have recently been awarded to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc(GA-ASI) covering orders for MQ-9 Reapers for the Netherlands and Spain, together with weaponizing French examples. The most recent of these was a $34,306,321 Foreign Military Sales (FMS) deal awarded to GA-ASI by the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center on March 29 for the procurement of two MQ-9 Block 5 aircraft and associated equipment for Spain. Work is expected to be completed by March 31, 2020.
Spain’s Ministry of Defence has previously ordered one Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper system for the Spanish Armed Forces under an FMS contract announced by GA-ASI on February 17, 2016. The company said that this would comprise four air vehicles equipped with MTS-B electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors and GA-ASI’s Block 20A Lynx Multi-mode Radar, two Block 30 Ground Control Stations (GCS), and Satellite Communications (SATCOM) and Line-of-Sight (LOS) data link capabilities. The first two are expected to be delivered shortly.
On March 21, GA-ASI was awarded a not-to-exceed $123,293,911 undefinitized FMS contract action by the US Air Force Life Cycle Center to provide four MQ-9 Block 5 UAVs to the Netherlands. The deal also includes four Mobile Ground Control Stations, spares and support equipment. An initial $38,928,607 in FMS funding was released at the time of the award. Work is expected to be complete by December 31, 2020.
It has taken some time to finalise this long-planned acquisition. In November 21, 2013, the Dutch Minister for Defence revealed plans to acquire four Reapers and one ground station from the manufacturer through a direct commercial sale, but it was later decided to make the purchase through the FMS route. On February 6, 2015, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) announced US State Department approval and notified Congress of the proposed FMS deal. At that time the DSCA said the deal would include two spare Honeywell TPE331-10T turboprop engines, two SATCOM earth terminal sub-systems, six AN/DAS-1 multi-spectral targeting systems (MTS)-B and four General Atomics Lynx (exportable) synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator (SAR/GMTI) systems with maritime wide area search capability.
A Letter of Offer and Acceptance for the purchase was finally signed between the Dutch defence procurement agency, the Defensie Materieel Organisatie (DMO – Defence Materiel Organisation) and the US DSCA at the Farnborough Air Show on July 17, 2018. On September 14, 2018, the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) re-established 306 Squadron at Leeuwarden Air Base to operate the Reapers. RNLAF pilots and sensor operators began training o9n the type at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, in December 2018.
The third Reaper-related contract was awarded to GA-ASI by the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center on March 22 and is a not-to-exceed $8,925,748 undefinitized FMS contract action for weapons integration on the Armée de l’Air (AdlA – French Air Force) MQ-9 Block 1 aircraft. This contract provides for the production and integration of weapons kits onto the five Reapers currently in AdlA service, which have to date been operated unarmed. An initial $4,373,617 in FMS funds was released at the time of the award. Work is expected to be completed by September 30, 2020.
Details of the planned weapons fit for the French Reapers were not disclosed. France had originally acquired six Reapers, the first two of which were handed-over in December 2013, but one was lost on November 17, 2018, while flying from Niamey, Niger, on an Operation Barkhane mission. A further six MQ-9 Block 5s are also on order, under a contract awarded to GA-ASI on August 23, 2018.