France has begun arming its General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with a weapon integration.
According to a Foreign Military Sales contract announcement on March 22, the U.S. government awarded $8.9 million to GA-ASI on behalf of France to carry out weapons integration for the MQ-9 fleet, which includes the production and integration of weapons kits on the French air force’s Block 1 Reapers. This will be carried out at GA-ASI’s Poway, California facility, and will be complete by the end of September 2020, with $4.4 million having been allocated at the point of award.
Although the contract does not disclose the weapon types to be fitted, the Reaper’s standard weapon fit in the service of other countries comprises Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and Raytheon Paveway precision-guided bombs. Jane’s has previously reported that France will adopt the Hellfire missile, and that an undisclosed European weapon could be fitted later.
France has five Reaper UAVs in service (one having crashed in November 2018), with six more on order for delivery in 2019.
Four (including the one that crashed) are engaged in Mali and have been used for more than 23.000 hours by the French Air Force, carrying surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The other two are assigned to Cognac-Châteaubernard Air Base, France.
The UAVs are performing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) duties in the Sahel region of Africa.