Feb. 7 (UPI) — General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems was awarded an increased $30.9 million to continue testing MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
The contracted value was increased from $37.9 million to $68.8 million for the remotely piloted aircraft, the agency announced Wednesday.
General Atomics has been testing MDA-configured MQ-9s, known as the Predador B, in ballistic missile defense system tests that envision the drones being used to track targets as part of the system — if not gaining the ability to take out a missile target themselves.
Work will be performed at the company’s headquarters in San Diego.
Funds from fiscal 2019 research, development, test and engineering in the amount of $1.4 million are being obligated at the time of award.
The aircraft is capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations, primarily for the U.S. Air Force, which had 93 Reapers as of 2015. The Reaper is also used by the U.S. Navy, the CIA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, NASA, and other countries’ militaries.
The Reaper is primarily used against dynamic execution targets and secondarily as an intelligence collection asset.
“Given its significant loiter time, wide-range sensors, multi-mode communications suite, and precision weapons — it provides a unique capability to perform strike, coordination, and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets,” the Air Force said on its website.
Reapers can also perform close air support, combat search and rescue, and terminal air guidance.
The Reaper has a cruise speed of 230 mph and a range of 1,150 nautical miles.