General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has expanded its “Team Reaper Australia” solution for the AIR 7003 armed unmanned aircraft project to nine partners.
Launched at the Avalon Airshow in February 2017, “Team Reaper Australia” is the company’s proposed teaming for the RAAF’s multi-mission remotely piloted aircraft requirement as outlined in the AIR 7003 Phase 1 Medium Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Aerial System project.
Cobham, CAE Australia, Raytheon and Flight Data Systems were named as members of the original team alongside General Atomics at the formal announcement at Avalon.
On Wednesday, General Atomics said TAE Aerospace, Rockwell Collins, Ultra Electronics Australia, Airspeed, and Quickstep Holdings had joined the project.
“General Atomics recognises the importance of having a robust team of Australian industry partners to support the Air 7003 requirements,” GA-ASI chief executive Linden Blue said in a statement.
“We are strongly committed to partnerships with Australian industry and to providing a capable, affordable RPA system to the Australian Defence Force.”
The Australian Government’s integrated investment program that was published with the 2016 Defence White Paper outlined a plan to acquire an armed unmanned aircraft to provide an integrated and persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and attack capability to support the Australian Defence Force and coalition forces.
General Atomics may put forward either the existing US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper or the Type-Certifiable Predator B (marketed as the SkyGuardian), which the USAF has designated as the MQ-9B.
The expanded teaming announcement comes as a senior executive from Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI), which is competing with the General Atomics bid for contract, recently criticised the Defence for a lack of transparency over the evaluation process.
“The preference for a US product, in the absence of an open competitive tender, creates an environment in which there is little transparency of how the Australian Department of Defence is managing the project, and how it has arrived at its decision,” IAI executive vice president and general manager for its military aircraft group Shaul Shahar told the ABC’s AM program.
“With all the risk analysis, all competitive analysis they need to do here, they haven’t done it because no-one has approached us.
“No one has offered to put our data of the system on the table. So . . . no evaluation can be complete.
IAI is putting forward its medium altitude, long endurance Heron TP for AIR 7003, a more capable development of the basic Heron platform that saw service with the RAAF
The RAAF leased three Herons in late 2009 to meet an urgent operational requirement to provide surveillance support to Australian and coalition troops in Afghanistan, becoming the first unmanned aircraft to be operated by the RAAF (the Jinidivik target drone aside).
In 2014, Defence extended the lease of two Herons for operations within Australia for a further six years.
However, the lease extensions was cut short, Defence said in August 2017.