General Atomics has been selected to provide Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper medium altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAS to the Dutch military following news that the platform will be capable of using GPS and Europe’s Galileo satnav system.
“We are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to meet the UAS requirements of the Royal Netherlands Air Force,” Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI, said. “We are committed to providing a NATO-interoperable solution that enhances the ISR capabilities of the Netherlands and the alliance.”
The news follows a number of successes for GA. The Spanish Air Force is scheduled to take delivery of MQ-9 systems in 2019, and the UK chose the MQ-9B Protector earlier this year.
The existing MQ-9 fleet has logged over two million operational flight hours with the several US agencies and military services, UK RAF, Italian and French Air Forces, and NASA.
Earlier this week, General Atomics announced that the MQ-9B will be able to utilize both GPS and the European Galileo satellite constellation for its navigation systems.
Galileo is the global navigation satellite system created by the EU through the European Space Agency.
The baseline MQ-9B was originally designed to include a triplex navigation system based on GPS navigation. However, GA believes having multiple satellite options is important to customers who will want to be able to switch from one constellation to another in the event connectivity is ever lost or denied.
“Many of our US and international partners have plans to produce multi-constellation navigation receivers,” David Alexander, president of Aircraft Systems GA, said. “The multi-constellation receivers will add to the operational flexibility of the MQ-9B and will benefit our international and domestic customers, especially those based in Europe.”
The baseline MQ-9B aircraft is known as SkyGuardian and the maritime surveillance variant is called SeaGuardian in UK service.
The MQ-9B is the certifiable version of GA’s MQ-9 Reaper UAS, which is currently in service with the USAF. The Reaper is one of two competitors for Australia's Air 7003 program, which will provide the RAAF with an armed MALE UAS as well as ground control stations.
ADM Comment: The increasing number of nations going down the armed unmanned UAS route is a reflection of a few trends: increased trust in the technology, an acknowledgement that ‘dull, dirty and dangerous’ is best done at a distance where possible and the costs behind the manning element of unmanned platforms.
As Australia decides which path to tread in terms of armed UAS capability, the manned and unmanned teaming MUM-T) concept is being explored on a number of fronts in the ADF. Air Force with the P-8A/Triton mix, Army with its MUM-T Innovation Day program for both ground and air vehicles and Navy looking beyond the anti-mine capability that they are comfortable with.
How further technology advancements such as blockchain encryption and AI play a part in this space is yet to be seen. But the groundwork for how the military uses and thinks about unmanned platforms is becoming normalised with each passing year.