San Diego-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has made its final delivery of two MQ-9A Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft and a Ground Control Station (GCS) to Spain, the first international purchase of the drone platform.
The Spanish Air Force took delivery of the aircraft on November 23, completing a total acquisition of four aircraft and three GCSs. Operation of the new MQ-9s will be conducted near Badajoz, Spain by the 233rd Squadron at Talavera la Real Air Base.
A combat and reconnaissance drone platform, the MQ-9A “Reaper” Block 5 has already been deployed by the US Air Force for several years.
Testing and Certification
Before final delivery, acceptance test procedures were completed at GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility near Palmdale, California in September. Test procedures were monitored by the US Air Force MQ-9 System Program Office in place of Spain’s Directorate General for Armament and Materiel procurement because of ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
Upon successful completion of the tests, Spain issued an “Airworthiness Military Type Certificate,” the first certification of its kind for the MQ-9A Block 5. The certification covers the entire system, including maintenance, as “safe for personnel in the air and on the ground.”
This is an important, official hurdle to overcome to fly in Spanish airspace.
We are excited to announce we recently delivered the final two MQ-9A Block 5 #RPA and a Ground Control Station to @ejercitoaire (Spanish Air Force)! Learn more: https://t.co/j6voOTGtJX#MQ9 #UAS
📸 credit: @ejercitoaire pic.twitter.com/QpW1gmNjeW
— GA-ASI (@GenAtomics_ASI) December 1, 2020
Tommy Dunehew, vice president of International Strategic Development for GA-ASI, expressed his gratitude for “the confidence the Spanish authorities have shown in the MQ-9 by issuing this type of certificate.” He further said the company looks forward “to seeing the system successfully operate in support of the country’s national Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) requirements.”
In additional firsts for the program, the Spanish Air Force took delivery of its initial two MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft at the end of 2019 and undertook the first flight in January 2020. The crew and maintenance personnel of the 233rd Squadron have steadily grown in competence while the Spanish Air Force has flown nearly 300 hours with its MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft before its first deployment.