Aug. 21 (UPI) -- General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems has received a $134 million contract to flight test advanced sensors for the MQ-9 series of unmanned aerial vehicles.
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency contract covers the development and integration of sensor systems into an MQ-9 for realistic testing in the continental U.S. and elsewhere.
Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif., and is expected to be finished by October 2021.
MDA fiscal 2018 research, development, test and engineering funds in the amount of $7.1 million are being obligated at the time of award.
The MQ-9B SkyGuardian, also known as the Reaper, is a much larger and heavily armed successor to the storied MQ-1 Predator drone. It is designed primarily for attack missions but can also be used for surveillance, close air support and reconnaissance missions.
It has long-range endurance and carries the advanced Multi-Spectral Targeting System. Its suite includes infrared cameras, laser designators, and video systems. It has satellite uplink/downlink capabilities that allow its sensor data to be shared across networks.
It has a high cruise speed and maximum flight ceiling of up to 40,000 feet, a long range compared to similar UAVs, and can carry a much larger payload than its predecessors like the Predator. It can carry Hellfire laser-guided missiles, GBU-12 Paveway bombs, and GPS-guided GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
The Missile Defense Agency is responsible for the defense of U.S. territory and its allies from ballistic missile threats. The agency coordinates a network of land-based and ship-based missile interceptors along with radars and satellites to detect and destroy enemy ballistic missiles.