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Avalon 2017: Australia’s Project Air 7003

Team REAPER Australia offers PREDATOR B for Armed UAS Competition

An industry team led by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) and Cobham Aviation Services will offer a variant of the PREDATOR B armed Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) for Australia’s Project Air 7003.

Cobham president Peter Nottage said that his company will be the lead for GA-ASI in Australia and team members comprise Raytheon Australia, who will supply the AN/DAS-1 Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MTSB); Flight Data Systems (Flight Data Recorder) and CAE Australia, who will provide a simulation and training package.

The PREDATOR B simulator offered to Australia will be based on a similar system developed by CAE for the Italian Air Force.

CAE is on track to deliver a zero flight time simulator,” said GA-ASI CEO Linden Blue during the official team launch on the first day of the 2017 Australian International Air Show at Avalon. “This is the first time that (such a concept) has happened.”

Air Chief Marshal (Ret.) Sir Angus Houston, Chairman of Defence South Australia, said that Air 7003 will be a key capability of the RAAF in future years, as the RAAF Moves towards a fifth generation force under Plan Jericho. “Team REAPER Australia is one of the most capable RPA teams in the world,” he said.

Team REAPER Australia is understood to be offering a proposal based on GA-ASI’s Certifiable PREDATOR B platform currently under development, but the specific Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) requirements have yet to be released.

The major competitor will be Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) with its HERON TP platform, which was also on display at Avalon.

Air 7003 will acquire an armed medium altitude long endurance (MALE) RPA early next decade, according to the Australian Government’s Defence White Paper and Integrated Investment Program (IIP) released in 2016.

“A fully integrated armed, MALE unmanned aircraft capability supported by intelligence analysts will facilitate the timely delivery of accurate information to commanders at all levels, providing superior situational awareness to inform decision-making,” the IIP notes. “This system’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability will also enhance the ADF’s counter-terrorism support capability overseas and could augment search and rescue, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and coastal surveillance tasks.”

The acquisition and sustainment budget for the project will be between $1 billion and $2 billion (U$0.77 billion and $1.53 billion), between 2017 and 2026.

Nigel Pittaway


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