The Australian Department of Defence (DoD) has down-selected General Atomics’ MQ-9B Sky Guardian for the programme to acquire an armed Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS).

Australia is looking to purchase the MQ-9B unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for its armed MALE RPAS requirement under Project Air 7003.

The DoD has selected the MQ-9B over the MQ-9A unmanned aircraft for the A$1.3bn ($884m) programme.

It will now work on preparing an acquisition proposal for government consideration, which is expected to take place in 2021-22.

Australia Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said: “Cutting-edge technology of this kind, with advanced sensors and systems, would complement advanced aircraft such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and ensure that Australian Defence Force maintains state-of-the-art capability.”

The team assembled by General Atomics to deliver the RPAS for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is known as Team Reaper Australia.

It includes Cobham Aviation Services Australia, Flight Data Systems, Collins Aerospace, Raytheon Australia, Airspeed, CAE Australia, Sentient Vision Systems, Ultra Electronics Australia, Quickstep Technologies and TAE Aerospace.

Australia Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price said: “Local companies that provide a range of innovative sensor, communication, manufacturing and lifecycle support capabilities will have the opportunity to showcase their capabilities throughout this development process.

“Australian defence industries are world-class and are extremely well-placed to be involved in projects like this.”

The DoD select General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) to provide an armed RPAS solution in November last year.

To be operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the MQ-9B drone is part of the MQ-9 series of unmanned systems.

Belgium and the UK also selected the MQ-9B Sky Guardian to meet their defence requirements.