Aug. 24 (UPI) -- General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has been awarded a contract for $123 million for the French 3rd/4th Systems MQ-9 Block 5 program.
Work on the contract, announced Thursday by the Department of Defense, will be performed in Poway, Calif., and is expected to be completed by May 2020. The program falls under a foreign military sale to France.
The MQ-9 SkyGuardian, also known as the Reaper, is a larger and more heavily armed successor to the famous MQ-1 Predator drone. It is designed primarily for attack missions but can also be used for surveillance, close air support and reconnaissance.
The Reaper has long-range endurance and carries the advanced Multi-Spectral Targeting System. It's suite includes infrared cameras, laser designators and video systems. It also has satellite uplink/downlink capabilities that allow its sensor data to be shared across networks.
The MQ-9 has a a high cruise speed, a flight ceiling up to 40,000 feet and can carry a larger sensor and weapons payload than its predecessors. They can be armed with laser-guided missiles and bombs like the Hellfire and GBU-12 Paveway, as well as GPS-guided GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.