General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Incorporated (GA-ASI) announced on May 29, 2018, that it had teamed with Canadian industry to establish Team SkyGuardian Canada.
The team, consisting of GA-ASI, CAE Canada, McDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) and L3 Wescam, is proposing the MQ-9B SkyGuardian medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned air system (MALE UAS), for the country’s remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) requirement. Previously known as the Joint Unmanned Surveillance and Target Acquisition System project, the RPAS programme aims to acquire an armed UAS capability for the Canadian Armed Forces, to be operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force.
According to an Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) online news article in November, 2017: “[The] remotely piloted aircraft will be equipped with a variety of payloads and sensors to detect items of interest in allweather operations, including into Canada’s Arctic, and will be able to assist in a range of missions from persistent surveillance to supporting search and rescue, to combat operations … Although the name has changed, the RPAS project’s aim remains to provide an integrated persistent long-range, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capability. The project will operate as part of a system-of-systems network and will be capable of providing near-real-time information to tactical, operational and strategic commanders to support both domestic and deployed operations, and, when required, provide a precision strike capability to support operations. The project will complement existing capabilities within the RCAF, such as the CP- 140 Aurora long-range patrol aircraft. The RPAS project is not a platform replacement.”
No decision on the number of MALE UAS platforms required has been made to date, but the RPAS project aims to leverage Canada’s experience of operating earlier-generation UAS, including the Israel Aircraft Industries CU- 170 Heron that was previously deployed in support of Canadian military operations.
GA-ASI said the Team SkyGuardian Canada proposal will include indigenous capabilities, systems and services and enhance existing future fighter, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and space assets through interoperability.
Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI, said: “General Atomics Aeronautical Systems recognises the importance of partnering with established Canadian companies and building on the important contributions that Canadian Industry is playing in the global success of GA-ASI. We have a longstanding relationship with CAE and L3 Wescam and look forward to growing our relationship with MDA as part of this new team in Canada … We have assembled a team with proven capabilities and a history of industry innovation and support. Our objective is to expand the capabilities of Team SkyGuardian Canada by seeking additional Canadian team mates – particularly small and medium-sized business – as the RPAS project progresses.”
The Team SkyGuardian initiative is similar to a team formed by GA-ASI and Australian industries, known as Team Reaper Australia, to bid for the Australian Defence Force’s Project Air 7003 MALE UAS competition.
Team Reaper Australia is proposing the certifiable MQ-9 platform for the Australian requirement, but it is not yet known whether Canberra will run an open competition between the MQ-9 and the IAI Heron TP MALE UAS or pursue a sole-source selection strategy for Air 7003.
In late May 2018, an Australian Defence Force spokesperson said: “Capability planning for Air 7003 is ongoing and encompasses a range of options for government consideration. No decision regarding the acquisition strategy has been made.” Nigel Pittaway