The U.S. Air Force placed a $34 million order for unmanned aircraft software with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., using research and development funds.

The deal, announced Jan. 22, calls for GA-ASI to develop and field what the Pentagon calls the Air Force Special Operations Command MQ-9 Medium Altitude Long Endurance Tactical Lead-Off Hitter software line.

Work will be performed at the GA-ASI complex in Poway as well as in Clovis, N.M., and Fort Walton Beach, Fla. It is expected to be complete by February 2018.

According to the Pentagon announcement, GA-ASI will “establish, define and grow a process to rapidly field capabilities.” Topics to be addressed include software defect corrections, threats, safety, interoperability and software changes resulting from hardware upgrades.

The effort will take some $11.9 million out of fiscal 2016 research, development, test and operation funds.

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio awarded the contract.