General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ MQ-9 Reaper unmanned air vehicle has made a rare appearance at ILA, as the manufacturer hopes the German government will reconsider the ubiquitous type despite the selection of a rival system this year.
The medium-altitude, long-endurance system has seen a number of successes in Europe – France, Italy, Spain and the UK have all acquired it – but is yet to bag a deal with Germany, although the company is hoping its NATO success will help promote the type.
Berlin has leased unmanned surveillance services in recent years, most notably with the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron 1 UAV in Afghanistan, and continued this in January when it selected the TP variant of the Heron to be provided on a contract basis under an Airbus Defence & Space prime. A contract for this is still being negotiated, and General Atomics is using this to its advantage to continue pitching the Reaper to Germany, Christopher Ames, vice-president for strategic development in Europe at the company, told Flightglobal at the ILA Berlin air show, where the company had a Block 5 Reaper on display.
The Reaper was the other contender for that contract under RUAG as prime, but lost out to the TP displayed on the Airbus static just over from the MQ-9.
General Atomics is offering the certifiable Predator B (CPB) variant to Germany – under the “Guardian Eagle” moniker – which is currently under development and will be production-ready by 2018. Ames says if a contract is signed soon, the CPB could be delivered the same year. The UK has selected the type for its Block 1 Reaper replacement, and Ames notes the certifiable element is something the two nations have in common.
“Germany and the UK have prioritised in particular the want to fly UAVs in national airspace,” he says.
Ames says the option is open to Berlin to either lease the UAV or buy it outright, as the deal is only supposed to bridge operations until a sovereign European UAV is developed.
General Atomics is working with Spezialtechnik Dresden to offer the Guardian Eagle to Germany, in addition to working with RUAG and the German military aviation authority. Rohde & Schwarz R&S MR6000A air traffic control communications radios are also being offered in the configuration.