General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), maker of the popular MQ-9 family of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), is doubling down on its bid to supply Canada with a fleet of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).
San Diego-headquartered GA-ASI said on 17 May that it is opening an office in the Canadian capital Ottawa. Former Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Major General Michel Lalumiere has been hired to oversee the firm’s Canada operations.
GA-ASI and L3Harris were selected by Canada as approved suppliers for the RPA contract. They have teamed up under a coalition dubbed Team SkyGuardian Canada. SkyGuardian is the name for the airframer’s civil airspace-approved variant of the MQ-9B, which is designed to perform a variety of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions in a combat or law enforcement environment.
“This is part of our building a long-term relationship with Canada,” says GA-ASI president David Alexander. “We will lean on the knowledge and experience Michel has gained over his years with the RCAF for the numerous projects we have ongoing in Canada with the government of Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces and other departments, including our hope that our Team SkyGuardian Canada offering will play a central role for the Canadian government’s RPA Systems plan.”
The Canadian government is currently pursuing an acquisition of RPAs, with the stated goal to “acquire a medium-altitude and armed Remotely Piloted Aircraft System along with associated equipment, weapons, infrastructure and in-service sustainment capability that will support up to three concurrent lines of tasking, domestic or international.”
Canada’s Department of National Defence estimates the RPA programme could be worth up to $5 billion. The government expects to award a contract sometime between 2023 and 2024, with first delivery scheduled for 2025 to 2026.
The MQ-9B also comes in a SeaGuardian variant for combat ISR missions in a maritime environment, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and counter mine operations. Both variants of the MQ-9B can be used for over-the-horizon targeting, airborne early warning, and electronic warfare.
The MQ-9A Reaper combat variant of the airframe has an armed payload capacity of 1,700kg (3,750lb) and is capable of carrying a variety of weapons, including Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire guided missiles and Joint Direct Attack Munition precision bombs.
In a GA-ASI statement announcing his appointment as the head of the Canadian operation, Lalumiere describes the RPA sector as being “truly at a transformational juncture” in both Canada and globally.