In an effort to field MQ-9 Reapers faster and meet an increasing operational demand for the aircraft, the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s MQ-9 Program Office awarded a $7.4 billion ceiling Agile Reaper Enterprise Solution (ARES) contract to General Atomics Sept. 17. ARES, a five year fixed indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract, developed by the MQ-9 Program Office, will stabilize costs, allow for the procurement of up to 36 aircraft per year in the same appropriation year, and reduce the time it takes to deliver the aircraft to operational units by approximately 35%. The MQ-9 is an unmanned aircraft with intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and strike capabilities, and is one of the most in demand weapons systems in the U.S. Air Force.
ARES is flexible and it has streamlined the traditional contract award process. ARES has a pre-negotiated $3.3 billion price-quantity-curve. This curve allows the Air Force and foreign military sales partners to unilaterally order between 4-36 aircraft in a single year. Foreign Military Sales partners will be allowed to procure the Dash 21 variant, which is the NATO exportable version of the MQ-9A. This pre-priced contract allows the MQ-9 Program Office to go through the complete contract clearance process only once. In addition to fielding MQ-9’s faster, ARES brings a level of certainty to the MQ-9 Program. The MQ-9 Program Office is capitalizing on this innovative contracting approach as they intend to award similar contracts for other enterprise-wide requirements.
“Prior to ARES, the standard contract award timeline was roughly 380 days,” said Alicia Morales, aircraft production manager with the Medium Altitude Unmanned Aerial System (MAUAS) Program Office, who was instrumental in developing ARES. “Now, once we have a budget, and it’s in our account, we can award in just a couple of days and field the aircraft in 26 months. ARES is a big deal because it answers the ‘mail’ as far as how do we deal with hard-to-predict demand signals from our international partners and enable increased responsiveness to U.S. Budget dynamics,” Morales said. “So, the team came together and figured out the best and most innovative approach to deal with unplanned requirements, so no matter what comes, we are prepared and able to handle it.”
The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (sometimes called Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) primarily for the United States Air Force (USAF). The MQ-9 and other UAVs are referred to as Remotely Piloted Vehicles/Aircraft (RPV/RPA) by the USAF to indicate their human ground controllers. The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance. The MQ-9 is a larger, heavier, and more capable aircraft than the earlier General Atomics MQ-1 Predator; it can be controlled by the same ground systems used to control MQ-1s.