The Royal Air Force wants to acquire 10 additional MQ-9 Reaper hunter/killer unmanned aerial vehicles, along with associated equipment and services, from US contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems under a proposed foreign military sale that could be worth as much as $1.071 billion, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced last week. DSCA has notified Congress of the possible transaction, which would include up to five ground control stations, along with sensors and communications equipment for each aircraft, and spares parts, training, test equipment, and support services. The United Kingdom already has several MQ-9s in its inventory. It began using the first of its Reapers in Afghanistan late last year, shortly after the combat debut of USAF MQ-9s there on Sept. 25, 2007. At least initially, the UK MQ-9s have not carried bombs or air-to-ground missiles, unlike their US counterparts, but the UK has said it is examining weapons options.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.