The Italian Air Force has partnered with the U.S. Government and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) to provide a mid-life update to its fleet of MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and Ground Control Stations (GCS) as part of a Foreign Military Sales agreement. The Italian Air Force’s Mid-Life Modernization (MLM) Program will include updates to the MQ-9s which will improve them from Block 1 to Block 5 configuration. The Block 5 system includes a significantly increased electrical power capability, improved landing gear and the latest versions of the GA-ASI LynxÂ® Multi-mode Radar and Raytheon Electro-Optical sensors.
“The Italian Air Force has long been a leader in the utilization of MQ-9 RPA to support a wide range of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions in Italy, over the Mediterranean, and in support of NATO operations,” said GA-ASI European Regional Vice President, Scott Smith. “These enhancements give Italian forces the ability to see better and more clearly than ever with their MQ-9 RPAs and we’re proud to work with the ItAF to update their existing fleet.”
On 1 August 2008, Italy submitted a FMS request through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency for four aircraft, four ground stations and five years of maintenance support, all valued at US$330 million. Italy ordered two more aircraft in November 2009. On 30 May 2012, it was reported that the U.S. planned to sell kits to arm Italy’s six Reapers with Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs. On 3 November 2015, the U.S. approved a deal covering weapons integration onto Italy’s Reaper aircraft, which would make it the first country outside the UK to weaponize the drone. The potential for increased contribution to NATO coalition operations improved operational flexibility, and enhanced survivability for Italian forces prompted the request.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), an affiliate of General Atomics, is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems, including the PredatorÂ® RPA series and the LynxÂ® Multi-mode Radar. With more than six million flight hours, GA-ASI provides long-endurance, mission-capable aircraft with integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent flight that enables situational awareness and rapid strike. The company also produces a variety of ground control stations and sensor control/image analysis software, offers pilot training and support services, and develops meta-material antennas. For more information, visit www.ga-asi.com.