Congress resurrects MQ-9 program, adding 16 UAVs for the Air Force

Congress resurrects MQ-9 Reaper program, adding 16 drones for the Air Force – link

Source: Defense News

Article Headlines
  • Buried inside the massive $2.3 trillion spending package was a $286 million lifeline for General Atomics that will keep the Air Force buying MQ-9 Reaper drones at least one more year
  • In its fiscal 2021 budget request, the Air Force eliminated funding to procure the Reaper, instead requesting about $172 million to begin shutting down General Atomics’ production line in Poway, California
  • The decision would have meant a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars for the company, as the Air Force previously intended to buy nine MQ-9s in FY21, 17 in FY22, two in FY23 and three in FY24, according to spending plans issued in FY20
  • Luckily for General Atomics, Congress has formally rejected the Air Force’s plan
  • In its $696 billion spending bill for the Defense Department, lawmakers added about $286 million to buy 16 MQ-9 Reaper drones for the Air Force. That sum brings total procurement funding for the MQ-9 to approximately $344 million in FY21
  • Both chambers approved the legislation and it now awaits President Donald Trump’s signature
  • Whether Congress would intervene to save the MQ-9 program had been a major question for defense budget watchers. In July, the House Appropriations Committee unveiled its version of the defense spending bill that included additional funds for 16 MQ-9s. But when its Senate counterpart released its own proposal in November, it contained no money to buy additional Reapers, leaving the fate of the production line in limbo
  • It is unclear whether the Air Force will attempt to shutter MQ-9 production in FY22, but over the past year the service has ramped up its pursuit of a Reaper replacement
  • The Air Force issued a request for information to industry on June 3 for the so-called MQ-Next program
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