General Atomics on Tuesday was awarded almost $400 million to build 36 more MQ-9 Reapers for the Air Force. The firm-fixed-price contract covers the aircraft in the Fiscal 2016 configuration, with work expected to last until August 2020, according to a Pentagon announcement. The Air Force announced in 2015 it was looking to buy 75 more Reapers to build up its remotely piloted aircraft force and address a shortfall both in manning and mission capacity. The service is standing up a new group and mission control element at Shaw AFB, S.C., along with possibly opening another operating base for an MQ-9 wing with 24 aircraft.
While the Air Force is keeping a seemingly optimistic outlook about the future of its MH-139 Grey Wolf fleet, despite problems receiving FAA certification, another of the service’s helicopter programs is being prematurely curtailed—and officials are already considering what might come next.