This arrangement will initially focus on the provision of support to No 39 Squadron’s MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft. These are operational in Afghanistan, working from Kandahar and controlled from Creech AFB in Nevada.
The RAF bought three Reapers (originally known as Predator Bs) under an urgent operational requirement (UOR) but one was lost on April 9 after suffering engine problems. An SBS team recovered sensitive equipment before the wreckage was bombed by an RAF Harrier. A fourth aircraft is being procured to replace the loss.
The industry team will develop support solutions that will offer the UK MoD increased flexibility and greater sovereignty compared to existing arrangements.
Jonathan Barratt, leader of the strategic unmanned air vehicle experiment (SUAVE) integrated project team (IPT) says: “The teaming arrangement provides us with the potential for UK to increase flexibility and robustness of support and the ability to develop UK industry’s UAS support capabilities in line with the MoD Defence Industrial Strategy.”
Though the RAF operates only three Reapers, moves are underway to operate more. The UK Government requested a possible sale of 10 MQ-9 Reaper aircraft and five ground control stations at the end of last year, though a collaborative effort with the USAF, using US-owned assets, may now be more likely.
Source: Flight International