MQ-9 Reaper. (US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Efren Lopez)
PARIS — General Atomics’ bid to sweep the board in meeting European medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) drone requirements snared a new partner in Fokker Technologies Wednesday as the Reaper-maker shaped up to compete for an upcoming Dutch requirement.
The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding at the Paris Air Show, further highlighting Reaper’s threatened dominance of the MALE market in Europe due to local manufacturers’ inability to offer a credible alternative.
Britain and Italy already operate the Reaper, France is expected to follow suit with a purchase in the next few weeks and Germany is considered not far behind.
The Dutch competition is set to get underway in the next few months, with Israel Aerospace Industry likely to figure prominently as a rival bidder.
The Reaper’s strengthening position in the region helped spark an open letter from three leading European aerospace companies on Sunday, urging governments in the region to stop procrastinating over the launch of a MALE development program of their own and promote local technology and address operational sovereignty issues.
Finmeccanica, Dassault Aviation and EADS released the letter just ahead of the opening day of the air show.
Fokker is expected to play a role supporting a Dutch airworthiness certification effort in the event of a Reaper win, along with electrical wiring design, manufacturing and support of in-service vehicles.
The deal follows a Tuesday agreement between General Atomics and CAE to pursue opportunities to integrate the Canadian company’s mission training simulator systems for Reaper exports.
The two North American companies have been teamed for the past two years to offer the Reaper in the Canadian Joint Unmanned Surveillance and Target Acquisition System program. ■
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