Team Reaper Australia welcomes its newest member

Line of Defence Magazine, Spring 2018

GA-ASI MQ-9B Predator unmanned aerial vehicle
GA-ASI's MQ-9B Predator.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA‑ASI), the leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, announced on 04 September the further expansion of Team Reaper Australia.

Sentient Vision Systems, Team Reaper Australia’s newest member, is the only Australian provider of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) solutions that has been an integral part of every Australian Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) program to date.

Sentient Vision is the ninth partner to join GA-ASI’s Team Reaper Australia bid for the Project Air 7003 requirement. The team’s ten companies providing a range of sensor, communication, manufacturing and life-cycle support capabilities.

Under Project Air 7003 Phase 1, Australia is seeking to acquire an armed, medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) RPA system that will include aircraft and Ground Control Stations (GCS) that will be fully inter-operable with Australia’s allies. According to government figures, the contract will be worth between $1 bn and $2bn over the next two decades.

The new capability will replace the unarmed IAI Heron 1 system acquired in 2009 by the Royal Australian Air Force for deployment in Afghanistan. The Heron was retired in August this year.

General Atomics’ Team Reaper Australia is proposing a variant of its certifiable Predator B platform (referred to as the MQ-9B Reaper in the US), currently under development for Britain’s Protector Program, which is due to enter service around 2020.

“General Atomics recognises the importance of having a robust team of Australian industry partners to support the Air 7003 requirements,” said Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI. “We continue to be committed to partnerships with Australian industry and to providing a capable, affordable RPA system to the Australian Defence Force.”

“Sentient is proud of our close collaboration with the Australian Government. From our foundations of the Defence Science and Technology Group’s Capability and Technology Demonstrator (CTD) program to our proud history of deployments in support of the Australian warfighter, Sentient sees the inclusion of our ViDAR wide area motion imagery payload as a part of Team Reaper Australia… as a reinforcement of Australian leadership in advanced autonomy,” said Simon Olsen, director of Business Development, Strategy and Partnerships at Sentient Vision Systems.

Team Reaper Australia, originally consisting of Cobham, CAE Australia, Raytheon, and Flight Data Systems, was first announced at AVALON 2017 by Linden Blue and Air Chief Marshal Sir Angus Houston, AK, DFC of Defence South Australia.

Team Reaper Australia’s membership includes Cobham Australia, CAE Australia, Raytheon Australia, Flight Data Systems, TAE Aerospace, Rockwell Collins, Ultra Electronics Australia, Airspeed, Quickstep Holdings Ltd and Sentient Vision Systems.

It’s been a big year for GA-ASI. In April, its Predator family of aircraft, which includes the Reaper, Gray Eagle, and new MQ-9B SkyGuardian, surpassed five million flight hours, the majority of which have occurred in combat. In July, GA-ASI undertook the first trans-Atlantic flight of a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Remotely Piloted Aircraft.

A maritime variant of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian, known as the SeaGuardian, has been put forward to the New Zealand Defence Force as a Future Air Surveillance Capability solution.

The SeaGuardian can host a variety of maritime radars to provide long-range surveillance, small target detection and radar imaging. In addition, it can be fitted with an Automatic Identification System (AIS) to provide positive identification of seagoing vessels. The aircraft has an endurance of over 40 hours.