The US Air Force has awarded General Atomics a $7.4 billion ceiling contract for the delivery of up to 36 MQ-9 unmanned aerial systems (UAS) per year.
The mega contract comes just months after the US Air Force relaunched an effort to find a successor to the MQ-9 Reaper, with a request for information issued in June this year.
Known as Agile Reaper Enterprise Solution (ARES), the contract is part of an effort to field MQ-9 Reapers faster and meet an increasing operational demand for the aircraft, the air force said.
The service added that ARES would stabilize costs and reduce the time it takes to deliver the aircraft to operational units by approximately 35 percent.
What is more, foreign military sales partners will be allowed to procure the Dash 21 variant, which is the NATO exportable version of the MQ-9A. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s MQ-9 Program Office says ARES has a pre-negotiated $3.3 billion price-quantity-curve. This curve allows the air force and foreign military sales partners to unilaterally order between 4-36 aircraft in a single year.
The contract contains pre-priced mobile ground control stations, ground data terminal, spares, and support equipment. This pre-priced contract allows the MQ-9 Program Office to go through the complete contract clearance process only once.
“Prior to ARES, the standard contract award timeline was roughly 380 days,” said Alicia Morales, aircraft production manager with the Medium Altitude Unmanned Aerial System (MAUAS) Program Office, who was instrumental in developing ARES. “Now, once we have a budget, and it’s in our account, we can award in just a couple of days and field the aircraft in 26 months.”