General Atomics wins up to $7.4 billion to supply MQ-9 Reapers

By Sara Sirota / September 18, 2020 at 2:38 PM

The Air Force has awarded General Atomics an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract that enables the service and its foreign military sale partners to purchase up to 36 MQ-9 Reapers annually over the next five years.

The "Agile Reaper Enterprise Solution" deal is worth up to $7.4 billion and intended to stabilize costs and reduce the delivery schedule by about 35% via a streamlined contracting process, the Air Force confirmed Thursday.

ARES has a pre-negotiated $3.3 billion price-quantity-curve, allowing the service and FMS customers to unilaterally order between four and 36 unmanned aerial systems in a single fiscal year. Foreign partners are permitted to buy the Dash 21 variant, a NATO exportable version of the MQ-9A.

"Prior to ARES, the standard contract award timeline was roughly 380 days," Alicia Morales, aircraft production manager with the Air Force's medium altitude UAS program office, said in the Sept. 17 notice. "Now, once we have a budget, and it's in our account, we can award in just a couple of days and field the aircraft in 26 months."

The contract follows the service's decision earlier this year to stop buying new Reapers after FY-20 -- a move lawmakers have largely opposed. Air Force Materiel Command did not immediately respond to questions about whether the MQ-9 program office is now looking to reverse its course.

The contract also follows the Trump administration's decision in July to alter the government's policy on how it interprets UAS export restrictions under the Missile Technology Control Regime.

The policy is intended to open the door to more international sales of large aircraft like the Reaper, though it's unclear if the latest contract with General Atomics enables transfers to non-NATO partners -- an opportunity defense export advocates are seeking.

It's also unclear if the Air Force has signed any letters of agreement with foreign militaries that would leverage the new deal.