Australia Picks MQ-9 Reaper to Fill Armed MALE Drone Requirement

Australia plans to use the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle from American firm General Atomics to meet a requirement for an armed drone to tackle a variety of roles. An announcement of the selection was made by Australia’s Minister for Defense Christopher Pyne on November 16.

The new drone will fill a requirement for an armed medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV listed in Australia’s 2016 Defense White Paper. The acquisition effort – called Project Air 7003 – involves a purchase of anywhere from 12 to 16 drones, plus accompanying ground stations, at a cost of up to $1.45 billion. A first delivery is planned for 2021, with operational capability on the first Reaper aimed for by 2022.

The operational aircrew will be located at the Edinburgh Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base north of Adelaide. The fleet basing has yet to be determined.

Once in RAAF service the Reapers will perform a range of missions, including firepower support, ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) duties, and assist in search-and-rescue operations.

About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is Forecast International’s director of military and defense markets. In this role, Dan oversees a team of analysts tasked with covering everything from budgeting to weapons systems to defense electronics and military aerospace. Additionally, for over 17 years Dan has, at various times, authored the International Military Markets reports for Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. Dan's work has been cited in Defense News, Real Clear Defense, Asian Military Review, Al Jazeera, and Financial Express, among others, and he has also contributed commentary to The Diplomat, The National Interest and World Politics Review. He has been quoted in Arabian Business, the Financial Times, Flight International, The New York Times, Bloomberg and National Defense Magazine. In addition, Dan has made guest appearances on the online radio show Midrats and on The Media Line, as well as The Red Line Podcast, plus media appearances on France 24 and World Is One News (WION).

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