GKN Aerospace’s Fokker business, a manufacturer of landing-gear components and systems, started up a new, automated production line for landing gear systems for Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper RPA systems at Helmond, in The Netherlands. The new line is operated in partnership with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., which produces “remotely piloted aircraft” (RPA, i.e., “drones”) systems, radar systems, and electro-optic and related mission systems.
The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remote-controlled or autonomous flight operations, developed for the U.S. Air Force.
RPAs are piloted by human ground controllers. The MQ-9 is described as “the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance.” "We've moved from using UAVs primarily in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance roles before Operation Iraqi Freedom, to a true hunter-killer role with the Reaper," according to former USAF chief of staff General T. Michael Moseley.
GKN plc’s aerospace business produces aerostructures, parts of aircraft engines, and electrical wiring and interconnection systems (EWIS) and transparencies for aircraft.
The GKN Aerospace’s Fokker business and GA-ASI have been working together for several years to offer Predator aircraft to the Dutch Armed Forces. A program team will manage the landing gear production, supported by automated processes.
“We are committed to substantial European industrial involvement on our aircraft systems,” according to Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “Fokker’s production of the Predator B landing gear system is just one of the major areas of collaboration with European industry.”
GKN Aerospace reported that GA-ASI and Fokker also are exploring possible collaboration to apply advanced composites in the Predator B landing gear, to reduce weight and improve production lead times.
According to Michiel van der Maat, v.p. of Fokker Technologies, “Our teams have been working closely together to achieve this great milestone.”