General Atomics Gets $400M USAF Reaper Contract

General Atomics – Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, California, has been awarded a $399,979,895 firm-fixed-price contract for MQ-9 Reaper production. Contractor will produce 36 MQ-9 Reaper aircraft in the fiscal 2016 production configuration. Work will be performed at Poway, California, and is expected to be complete by Aug. 31, 2020. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition.

Fiscal 2016 aircraft procurement funds in the amount of $399,979,895 are being obligated at the time of award.

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8620-15-G-4040 0001).

The Air Force’s FY-17 budget documents released in February 2016 show the service planned to buy 33 Reapers in FY-16 and 24 in FY-17. Inside Defense reported last month the Air Force believes the 350 Reapers in its inventory, as programmed in the FY-17 budget, are enough to fulfill its current program of record until follow-on capabilities are fielded.

The service is not planning to buy more MQ-9s after FY-17, the House Appropriations Committee wrote in a May 2016 report accompanying the defense portion of the FY-17 omnibus spending bill. All 350 planned Block 5 MQ-9 deliveries are expected to be complete in FY-21, Inside Defense previously reported.

A General Atomics spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday all of the aircraft under this week’s contract will be built in the Block 5 configuration, and the buy is part of the current program of record.

The Air Force said Feb. 23 it would gradually stand up MQ-9 combat lines to replace squadrons of General Atomics MQ-1 Predators as they retire through the end of the year. Reapers are larger, faster and offer a 4,000-pound payload capacity compared to the Predator’s 200-pound payload, with high-definition sensors, among other capabilities.

Air Combat Command will study the MQ-9’s service life until FY-19 to determine that aircraft’s retirement time line as well, Inside Defense previously reported. The service plans to add more Block 5 Reapers to the fleet until at least 2020 as overworked Block 1 aircraft are retrofitted with Block 5 avionics.

The Air Force had planned to field Block 5 MQ-9s this month, Inside Defense reported earlier this year, and a General Atomics official suggested the service should upgrade its Reapers to a more advanced version of Block 5 instead of retrofitting the fleet as it racks up additional flying hours.

Service spokesmen did not answer a request for comment by press time.

Sources: DoD; Inside Defense

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