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MQ-9 Reaper Air 7003

On 16 November 2018 the Australian ministers for Defence, Christopher Pyne, and Defence Industry, Steven Ciobo, jointly announced the selection of the General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper over the IAI Heron TP to answer the Royal Australian Air Forces requirement for an armed RPAS (remotely piloted aircraft system), as defined by Project Air 7003 in Australias 2016 Defence White Paper. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), the world's leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, today announced 06 September 2017 the expansion of its Team Reaper Australia. The team offers the only viable solution to meet the Project Air 7003 requirement and now consisted of nine Australian companies providing a range of innovative sensor, communication, manufacturing and life-cycle support capabilities.

Project AIR 7003 will provide an armed, Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance (MALE) RPA system that will be fully-interoperable with Australia's allies. Team Reaper Australia assembles a strong partnership between Australian companies and GA-ASI to meet the requirements of Project AIR 7003, while also creating enduring jobs for Australians.

"General Atomics recognizes the importance of having a robust team of Australian industry partners to support the Air 7003 requirements," said Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI. "We are strongly committed to partnerships with Australian industry and to providing a capable, affordable RPA system to the Australian Defence Force."

"TAE Aerospace is looking forward to working with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems and the other members of Team Reaper Australia to support the Air 7003 requirement," said Darren Hutchinson, Chief Strategy Officer of TAE Aerospace. "As Australia's largest gas turbine engine MRO provider, we believe this project will provide substantial benefit to Australia's local industry and showcase our innovative through-life support capabilities to the world."

"Rockwell Collins has a proven history of providing innovative mission system solutions that meet the specific needs of the Australian Defence Force," said Nicholas Gibbs, managing director, Rockwell Collins Australia. "Joining Team Reaper Australia will solidify the work we've been doing with General Atomics to set the standards for UAS to access civil airspace."

"We look forward to supporting Team Reaper by supplying the UAS with special-purpose sensors that are designed and manufactured in Australia," said Ultra Electronics Marketing Director, Peter Weir. Steve Barlow, managing director of Airspeed, agreed, "We are thrilled to be part of Team Reaper Australia, offering our reconfigurable and proven airborne equipment pod to house payloads on Reaper."

"As Australia's largest independent, aerospace-grade, advanced composites manufacturer, we look forward to being part of General Atomics' Team Reaper Australia solution for Project Air 7003's requirement for Remotely Piloted Aircraft," said Mark Burgess, CEO and Managing Director of Quickstep Holdings Limited. "This project fits well with our strategic direction, manufacturing capabilities and capacity availability and adds to Australia's further development of sovereign capability." Peter Nottage, CEO of Cobham Aviation Services, added, "The expansion of our Australian team further strengthens our robust portfolio of experience delivering innovative and technologically-advanced, turn-key solutions to support Australian government and defence operations."

Team Reaper Australia, originally consisting of Cobham, CAE Australia, Raytheon, and Flight Data Systems, was first announced at the Australian International Aerospace and Defence Exposition (AVALON 2017) by Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI and Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston, AK, DFC of Defence South Australia. Since Avalon 2017, Team Reaper Australia has expanded to nine companies to include: Cobham Australia, CAE Australia, Raytheon Australia, Flight Data Systems, TAE Aerospace, Rockwell Collins, Ultra Electronics Australia, Airspeed, and Quickstep Holdings Ltd.

Air 7003 will build on the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) experience the RAAF has gained from operations of the IAI Heron. The Heron flew its last mission from RAAF Base Tindal during Exercise Diamond Storm on 23 June 2017. During Diamond Storm, Heron completed 17 sorties in support of the Air Warfare Instructor Course in an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance electronic warfare (ISREW) role. After its last operational mission from Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on November 30, 2014, Heron then made history by flying in civilian airspace for the first time out of Rockhampton airport during Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015.

While the Defence Integrated Investment Program (DIIP) listed Project AIR 7003 Phase 1 as one that is a contestable, IAI, Israels largest defense company and a supplier of UAS solutions, claimed the Department of Defence has blocked out the company from tendering in favour of a foreign military sale (FMS) of the US General Atomics Reaper. IAI, which had representation in Australia for the past 35 years, attempted to put forward its Heron TP capability, the armed and improved variant of the recently withdrawn Heron, which has an altitude of up to 45,000 feet and a maximum take off weight of 5,400 kilograms, but the company said the department had all but decided on an FMS of the Reaper.

A replacement capability is being acquired through Project AIR 7003 and is scheduled to be delivered after 2020. Project AIR 7003 will deliver an armed medium altitude long endurance unmanned aircraft system.Air Force has taken steps to retain and further develop knowledge and experience, including embedding personnel in the US Air Force flying the MQ-9 Reaper. Project Air 7003 will provide the Australian Defence Force with a MALE RPA system that will include aircraft and Ground Control Stations (GCS).



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