The Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) a $30.5 million contract to upgrade the Italian Air Force’s (IAF) MQ-9A Predator B unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Block 1 to Block 5 standard.
The drone’s midlife upgrade, part of a Foreign Military Sales agreement, runs through to January 31, 2023, and includes the Block 30 mobile ground control station (MGCS).
According to the manufacturer, the upgraded UAVs will have more electrical power, “improved landing gear, and the latest versions of the GA-ASI Lynx® Multi-mode Radar and Raytheon Electro-Optical sensors.”
GA-ASI European Regional Vice President Scott Smith said, “The Italian Air Force has long been a leader in the utilization of MQ-9 RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) to support a wide range of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions in Italy, over the Mediterranean, and in support of NATO operations.”
“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.”
The MQ-9A’s latest configuration has a maximum speed of 444 km/h (276 mph) and can fly at an altitude of 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) for more than 27 hours. It has a 3,850-lb (1,746-kg) payload capacity, including 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of external storage. Moreover, the aircraft’s highly modular body allows a variety of payloads to meet mission requirements.