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As MONCh has already reported from Avalon, (here and here) the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI)-led Team REAPER, established at Avalon two years ago to support the company’s bid for the Australian Defence Force’s armed remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) requirement, has been significantly strengthened over the last two years and now consists of ten companies.

Prominent among these is CAE, GA-ASI’s main training partner since the two companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) covering training and simulation support for the PREDATOR and REAPER family of RPAS in 2013. REAPER training systems have been developed and delivered for the Italian, UAE and British air forces.

Australia still has to decide whether to select the MQ-9A or the MQ-9B variant but, once this decision has been made and contracted for, then CAE will be expected to provide a full spectrum of solutions: training needs analysis; simulators and training devices such as desktop trainers and high-fidelity, type-specific mission trainers; training services for academic, simulator, maintenance, and live-flying instruction as well as maintenance and support services on training devices; courseware and curriculum development; and training centre operations. 

The MQ-9 Reaper system beat competition from the Heron TP UAS from Israeli company IAI to win the AIR 7003 competition. Initial Gate was passed in November 2016 and General Atomics was awarded a contract valued at $1-2 billion in November 2018 to provide 12-16 aircraft of a yet-to-be-selected type that will be delivered in the 2020s.

Since the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) retired the Heron I UAS in mid-2017 it has been without a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle capability. The RAAF first leased three Heron I UAVs under an urgent operational requirement for Afghanistan in 2009.

“Our extensive experience collaborating with General Atomics on the development and delivery of training solutions for GA-ASI’s family of remotely piloted air systems will enable us to deliver a mature and proven training system to help the Australian Defence Force create the well-trained cadre of pilots and sensor operators needed for mission operations,” explained CAE’s Vice President and General Manager, Asia-Pacific/Middle East, Ian Bell. “Our experience on GA-ASI’s platforms will prove valuable in designing the overall training programme for the Royal Australian Air Force, but so too will our experience providing a range of simulation-based training systems already in service for the ADF. CAE is a leading supplier of simulation systems to the ADF on platforms such as the KC-30A, C-130J, MH-60R and MRH90, among others, so we will be able to deliver commonality and interoperability to support distributed and networked mission training capabilities.”

The UK has selected the GA-ASI PROTECTOR unmanned aerial system (UAS), based on the MQ-9B REAPER, for its medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) capability, with an initial operational capability expected in 2023. CAE also expects to leverage the experience its gains on this programme to help develop the Australian REAPER training element. “The UK PROTECTOR will offer a new level of capability in an unmanned air system and will require a cadre of professional, well-trained aircrews to operate. The synthetic training system will be an integral part of the overall training programme and we are pleased to again collaborate with GA-ASI on its development,Mr Bell told MONCh.

 

The ADF’s armed RPAS solution will be a GA-ASI system: that much has been certain for some time. Whether it will be an MQ-9A or an MQ-9B REAPER has yet to be confirmed. (Photo: Tim Fish)

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