France has taken delivery of a second batch of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and has placed an order for a fourth batch, in line with the objectives of the current multi-year defence spending plan (LPM) for 2014-2019. Each of these batches corresponds to a “system” which comprises three Reaper medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) RPAs and associated ground equipment.
The order for the fourth system was placed on 5th December, the French defence procurement agency, DGA, announced. Delivery is scheduled for 2019. According to the 2014-2019 LPM, the French Air Force should be equipped with four complete systems by that date.
Two of the RPAs in the second system were delivered directly to Niamey, Niger, where the existing fleet of three vehicles is deployed. The two new Reapers arrived in Niamey on 31st December. The 1/33 “Belfort” squadron of the French AF has been using the Reaper for reconnaissance and intelligence missions since January 2014 as part of Operation Barkhane, the French-led operation to combat terrorist groups in the Sahel-Saharan region of Africa.
The third Reaper will be delivered to Cognac Air Base, the home base of 1/33 squadron, where it will be used to train personnel to operate the aircraft. Tests will also be performed to validate procedures for airlifting the Reaper on French AF A400Ms and to check system operation in the electromagnetic environment of Cognac Air Base and of French airspace.