RAAF settles on MQ-9B for armed drone program

RAAF’s desire to acquire an armed remotely-piloted aircraft system is a step closer with the formal down-selection of the General Atomics MQ-9B ‘Sky Guardian’.

FILE PHOTO: MQ-9 Reaper. US Air Force photo.

The next phase in the $1.3 billion program will focus on developing the MQ-9B acquisition proposal, which is scheduled for government consideration in 2021-22.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the project would deliver Australia’s first armed medium-altitude long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft system.

[The word ‘drone’ was never mentioned 😉 ]

“Cutting-edge technology of this kind, with advanced sensors and systems, will complement advanced aircraft such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and ensure that Australian Defence Force maintains state-of-the-art capability,” Minister Reynolds said.

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Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price MP encouraged Australian industry to become involved in this billion dollar project.

“Local companies that provide a range of innovative sensor, communication, manufacturing and life-cycle support capabilities will have the opportunity to showcase their capabilities throughout this development process,” Minister Price said.

MQ-9 is a heavily armed  ‘hunter-killer’ drone.

RAAF pilots have already been sent to the USA to learn to operate MQ-9 Reapers, with some reports suggesting that at least some of these pilots have gained combat experience on the type in Syria during their postings.

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Brian Hartigan

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