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France decides to arm its fleet of MQ-9 Reaper MALE UAVs

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World Aviation Defense & Security News - France
 
 
France decides to arm its fleet of MQ-9 Reaper MALE UAVs
 
The French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly today announced during the Summer University of Defense in Toulon the decision to arm all the MALE drones in service with the French Air Force. "I decided to start the process of arming our intelligence and surveillance drones," said Parly.
     
Two MQ-9 Reapers deployed in Mali by the French Air Force
(Credit: armée de l'Air)
     
The French Air Force fleet of MQ-9 Reaper "become indispensable in the operations we are conducting in the Sahel," said Parly, adding that the French military will "gain in efficiency while limiting the risk of collateral damage".

This decision will initialy concern the Reaper fleet being acquired through the US Foreign Military Sales program, but the Minister confirmed its intention to also arm the future European MALE drone actually being developped in cooperation with Germany, Italy and Spain.

According to Parly, "the armament that will be retained will be a guided, precision one, and with military effects adapted to the threat". The project of arming the current French Reapers with European weapons will also be studied. The weapon package will be determined in the course of 2018.

If the Minister didn't gave any details regarding the calendar, the French Air Force is expecting an operational capability for 2019 and the delivery of new Block 5 Reaper UAVs.

The French Air Force is actually flying six MQ-9 Reaper, and six more are expected to be delivered in 2019.