Spain is reportedly close to selecting a new medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned air vehicle for use by all branches of its military with an initial €25 million ($28 million) allocated in its 2016 defence budget for the acquisition.
Two types are under consideration, namely the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper and the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron TP, both of which are being offered with the support of Spanish industry: General Atomics is teamed with Sener, while IAI is partnered with Indra.
A decision is expected to be made next year, and Spanish national newspaper El Pais claims that four aircraft and two ground systems – one fixed and one mobile – are required. A five-year contract covering the 2016-2020 period is believed to be worth some €171 million. The chosen system will come under the remit of the chief of the defence staff, and will therefore be a joint service capability.
Reports suggest that the Reaper has already been selected as the preferred bid, but General Atomics tells Flightglobal that a decision has not yet been announced. IAI declines to comment on the tender.
It is understood that whichever platform is selected, it will be delivered in a surveillance-only configuration. If it does pick the MQ-9, Spain will join other European customers of the variant including France, Italy and the Netherlands, while the US Air Force and UK Royal Air Force operate an armed version.
An IAI/Airbus Defence & Space team, meanwhile, is counting on the release of a request for proposals before year-end from Berlin for a UAV to replace the Heron 1s operated on behalf of the German air force. IAI/Airbus will offer the newer Heron TP for the requirement, but will face competition from General Atomics/RUAG pitching the MQ-9.