Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has delivered a third Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper RPA to the French Air Force.
The new aircraft will now join the fleet of two other French Reapers in service, which began operation in January last year. The two Reapers have covered more than 4,000 flight hours already.
GA-ASI Aircraft Systems president Frank W. Pace said: "This latest order from the French Defense Procurement and Technology Agency (Direction Générale de l’Armement – DGA) is a testament to Reaper’s ability to enhance the ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) of the French Air Force in support of national, Nato, and other coalition operations."
France is planning to bring a total of 12 aircraft into service by 2019.
Currently, pilots and sensor operators from Drone Squadron 1/33 ‘Belfort,’ 709 Air Base Cognac-Château Bernard are conducting mission operations.
It is aimed to deliver increased battlefield situational awareness, enhance combat search and rescue, and provide ground troop support.
The long-endurance, medium-high-altitude RPA, Predator B, is designed for ISR as well as targeting missions.
The aircraft features an extensive payload capacity with a maximum altitude of 50,000ft. It is capable of staying aloft for up to 27 hours.
In addition, it offers unparalleled close air support and persistent situational awareness over land or sea to coalition forces.
Since 2001, around 240 Predator B aircraft have accumulated more than one million flight hours.
Currently, the US Air Force and the UK Royal Air Force are using Predator B as MQ-9 Reaper, while the Italian Air Force uses as MQ-9.
Image: A General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper. Photo: courtesy of Gerald L Nino.