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General Atomics delivers final two MQ-9A Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft to Spanish Air Force


According to a press release published on November 30, 2020, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) delivered the final two MQ-9A Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and a Ground Control Station (GCS) to the Spanish Air Force (SpAF) on Nov. 23, 2020, completing a Foreign Military Sales acquisition of four aircraft and three GCSs. The new MQ-9s will be operated by the 233rd Squadron at Talavera la Real Air Base near Badajoz, Spain.

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General Atomics delivers final two MQ 9A Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft to Spanish Air Force 925 001 Spanish Air Force General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Operated Aircraft. (Picture source Spanish air Force)


The final delivery was preceded by acceptance test procedures (ATP) completed at GA-ASI's Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility near Palmdale, Calif. on Sep. 29, 2020. The ATPs were witnessed by the U.S. Air Force MQ-9 System Program Office (SPO) acting on behalf of Spain’s Directorate General for Armament and Materiel (DGAM) procurement team due to COVID-19 restrictions. The successful ATPs, in conjunction with the integration of System 1 by the SpAF in Badajoz, Spain, resulted in Spain’s issuance of an Airworthiness Military Type Certificate for the aircraft, which is first time this has been done for the MQ-9A Block 5. This measure certifies that the entire system, including the maintenance, is safe for personnel in the air and on the ground. It is also a key hurdle to clear to operate in the national airspace.

“We are proud of our partnership with the Spanish Air Force,” said Tommy Dunehew, vice president of International Strategic Development for GA-ASI. “We appreciate the confidence the Spanish authorities have shown in the MQ-9 by issuing this type certificate and we look forward to seeing the system successfully operate in support of the country´s National Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) requirements.”

Besides being the first for the issuance of the Airworthiness Military Type Certificate, Spain’s program represents the first MQ-9A Block 5 acquisition by an international partner. Other milestones for the program have included the SpAF taking initial delivery of its MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft at the end of 2019 and launching its first flight in January 2020. The 233rd Squadron has flown nearly 300 hours with its MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft and is steadily building the expertise of its crewmembers and maintainers as the SpAF moves towards declaring the Initial Operational Capability for the system.

The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper (sometimes called Predator B) is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) primarily for the United States Air Force (USAF). The Block 5 version was designed for increased electrical power, secure communications, automatic landing, increased gross takeoff weight (GTOW), weapons growth, and streamlined payload integration capabilities. It has new communications capabilities, including dual ARC-210 VHF/UHF radios with wingtip antennas, allow for simultaneous communications between multiple air-to-air and air-to-ground parties, secure data links, and an increased data transmission capacity. The new trailing arm main landing gear allows the carriage of heavier payloads or additional fuel.