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.
Announcing the selection of the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper variant as the system which best meets the capability requirements for Australia’s first armed remotely piloted aircraft system ➡️ https://t.co/5yRwglK471 #auspol #ausdef pic.twitter.com/dgz0xhd0gM
— Christopher Pyne (@cpyne) November 16, 2018
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.