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The UK is acquiring an MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Announced by the US Department of Defense (DoD), the $12.9 million Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract covers a single Block 1 Reaper medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV, a Lynx synthetic aperture radar (SAR), embedded Global Positioning System (GPS)/Inertial Navigation System (INS), and “UK specific modifications”.
The Reaper is manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI). The purchase is under the UK’s Second Operating Location Alternate Reaper (SOLAR) requirement.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) already fields nine Reaper UAVs (an early aircraft was decommissioned in 2019). An unknown number of this fleet are currently flying operations over the Middle East, while those not being used are held in storage at RAF Waddington in the UK, according to janes.com.
It is unclear precisely what this SOLAR requirement is, how it relates to the RAF’s existing Reaper fleet, or how the requirement and this additional platform relate to the impending delivery of up to 16 new GA-ASI MQ-9B Protector RG1 MALE UAVs from 2023 (down from the earlier government stated figure of 20, and less than the 26 approved by the US).