GA lands a $17 mn contract for Spain and France's future MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper UAVs

World Aviation Defense & Security Industry News - General Atomics
GA lands a $17 mn contract for Spain and France's future MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 UAVs
The US drone manufacturer General Atomics – Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) has been awarded a $17 mn contract to develop an MQ-9 Block 5 configuration for France and Spain, which both ordered the unmanned aerial system through the foreign military sales program.
GA lands a 17 mn contract for Spain and France s future MQ 9 Reaper UAVs 640 00GA-ASI's MQ-9 Block 5 Reaper UAV
(Credit: GA-ASI)
"Work will be performed at Poway, California, and is expected to be complete by Jan. 31, 2019. This contract involves foreign military sales for France and Spain", the US Department of Defense announced on Dec. 9, 2016.

The French Air Force has already acquired three MQ-9 Reaper, which performed first operational flight in January 2014. General Atomics delivered on May 29 2015 a third Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper RPA to the French Ministry of Defense. A total of 12 aircraft are planned to be in service by 2019. They will be operated by the Drone Squadron 1/33 ‘Belfort,’ based at the 709 Air Base Cognac-Château Bernard. If the previous aircraft were directly came from the US existing inventory, the future Block 5 configuration could include modifications specifically designed to make it operable in the European sky.

Spain decided to buy four MQ-9 Reaper surveillance drones in August 2015, making it the fifth European nation to equip itself with the US-made devices. The entire five-year drone programme has a budget of 171 million euros.

The MQ-9 Block 5 variant, previously known as Block-1 Plus, differs from the previous versions as it incorporates a new high-capacity starter generator which offers increased electrical power capacity to provide growth capacity and new communications capabilities, including dual ARC-210 VHF/UHF radios with wingtip antennas, secure data links, and an increased data transmission capacity. Its new trailing arm main landing gear allows the carriage of heavier payloads or additional fuel.

The typical MQ-9 system is composed of multiple aircraft, ground-control stations, satellites, and flight and maintenance crews. The aircraft is powered by a 950 hp turboprop, with a maximum speed of about 260 knots (300 miles per hour or 483 km per hour) and a cruising speed of 150-170 knots (278 to 315 km/hour). With a 66 ft (20 m) wingspan, and a maximum payload of 3,800 lb (1,700 kg), the MQ-9 can be armed with a variety of weaponry, including Hellfire missiles and 500-lb laser-guided bomb units.