A $26.8 million contract from US Naval Air Systems Command has been awarded to US-based defense corporation General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. for the delivery of two MQ-9A Reaper unmanned air systems (UAS) and accompanying ground control equipment.
Amid tightening US Department of Defense budget constraints, the US Navy acquired its first two Reaper drones via a $26,866,441 “firm-fixed-price contract” with General Atomics on June 19, according to a Monday contract announcement issued by the Pentagon.
Group 5 UAS is the highest category of unmanned aerial vehicle classification recognized by the Pentagon. Aircraft in this category may travel at any airspeed, have a maximum gross takeoff weight that exceeds 1,320 pounds (599 kilograms) and possess a normal operating altitude of more than 18,000 feet (5,486.4 meters), according to the “Eyes of the Army” Roadmap for UAS 2010-2035.
Citing budget documents for fiscal years 2020 and 2021, Defense News reported that the Navy’s new Reapers were previously piloted by airmen of the US Marine Corps (USMC). The USMC pilots have provided ISR support to Task Force Southwest in Afghanistan since September 2018.
The fiscal year 2021 budget request noted that each UAS would be less expensive than a new drone; due to the used condition of the Reapers, US Naval Air Systems Command paid less than $12 million for each aircraft, according to the outlet.
General Atomics’ delivery is slated for December 2020.