The Australian government announced on November 28 that it has down-selected the General Atomics MQ-9B Sky Guardian platform for its medium altitude long endurance remotely piloted aircraft system (MALE RPAS).
The next phase of the AU$1.3 billion program will focus on developing the MQ-9B acquisition proposal, which is scheduled for government consideration in 2021-22.
The MQ-9B was chosen over another General Atomics system, the MQ-9A which cannot be certified to fly in civilian airspace and has a smaller wing span and take-off weight. The government did not specify the criteria for which one system was chosen over the other.
Minister for defense Linda Reynolds said the project would deliver Australia’s first armed MALE RPAS.
“Cutting-edge technology of this kind, with advanced sensors and systems, would 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.
Minister for defense industry Melissa Price 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,” Price said.
The Sky Guardian’s 24-meter wingspan enables it to stay in the air for over 40 hours.