Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in late March awarded General Atomics a potential $527.6 million contract to provide operations and maintenance services and work for the agency’s fleet of MQ-9 Predator and Guardian drones as well as funding for a new aircraft.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is the prime contractor for the MQ-9, which it has supplied to CBP beginning in 2005. The award is for up to five years.

CBP operates a fleet of nine MQ-9s, seven that are Predator variants used for border security and two Guardian variants for maritime missions in partnership with the Coast Guard.

It published the award notice on March 29 in the federal business opportunities portal, saying the award was for $585 million. The agency updated the notice on Thursday, adjusting the award to $527.6 million.

General Atomics is the incumbent for the support services, which include air vehicle pilots and mission payload operators, systems, airframe and equipment repairs, modifications and systems integration, system upgrades and engineering changes, support of ground statin facilities, and support for the vehicle and dismount exploitation radar.

CBP said the contract includes one aircraft to replace a lost aircraft. The agency has suffered three crashes of Predator unmanned aircraft systems, most recently in 2020 due to a hard landing.

The contract will use funding from fiscal years 2022 through 2026 if all options are exercised.

CBP said the new contract was awarded because the current contract is experiencing higher than planned costs due to congressional modifications, technology obsolescence, and system improvements.

CBP uses the Predators for border and maritime security missions, disaster relief and emergency response missions, and has also provided limited support to local law enforcers. The CIA and Defense Department are the primary users of the medium altitude, long-endurance UAS.