Airmen operate an MQ-9 Reaper at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. (Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — CAE has been awarded a contract to provide training for US Air Force unmanned aerial systems.
The contract, worth $100 million over a five-year stretch, provides instructors, live training and coursework for pilots of the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones, both designed by General Atomics.
For the Quebec-based CAE, the contract is a return to its roots. The company won its first five-year contract for this training in 1998 and held on to it in during a recompete in 2003. But in 2008, the Air Force limited competition to small businesses only, knocking CAE out of the running. After opening it to all companies this year, the service announced that CAE beat out five other companies in a Tuesday contract announcement.
The program has “grown quite a bit since we had it,” CAE spokesman Chris Stellwag said. “The sheer number of Predator pilots and sensor operators are significantly more than in the early 2000s.”
CAE expects around 1,500 pilots to cycle through its training program each year. Stellwag said that number includes pilots going through initial qualification, some refresher training and training for future instructors. Work will be performed at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., Creech Air Force Base, Nev., March Air Reserve Base, Calif., and Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, N.Y.
The award comes at a good time for the company, which in May lost out on a lucrative contract to design the aircrew training system for the Air Force’s new KC-46 tanker. Later that month, Marc Parent, CAE’s president, said military orders were “slower than we’d like” and noted that “finding contracts remains the order of the day.”