The US State Department has approved the sale of spare parts and support services for MQ-9 Reaper drones to France at an estimated cost of $300 million. The deal is expected to boost the French Air and Space Force’s current and future operational readiness.
“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by helping to improve the security of a NATO ally that is an important force for political stability and economic progress in Europe,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement.
The potential sale is now waiting for congressional approval.
The contract includes providing the drone components, spare parts and accessories, repair, software support services, simulator software, personnel training, and other related services.
France’s fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones provides intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to its allies including the US in operations across the globe.
US and France MQ-9 Collaboration
France first procured MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from the US in a deal signed in 2013. Last June, the country signed a contract for two additional Reapers with a completion date of March 29, 2024.
The European country currently has six Reaper Block 1 and six Reaper Block 5 drones, while Paris is in the process of acquiring six more Block 5 UAVs.
France announced conducting its first airstrike in an “operational setting” using an MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 in August 2021.
MQ9 Reaper Combat Drone
The General Atomics-manufactured MQ-9 drone system has an endurance of over 27 hours and can operate up to an altitude of over 50,000 feet (15 kilometers).
The combat UAV, first designated “Reaper” by the US and UK Royal Air Force, was developed to replace the initial MQ-1 or the “Predator” in 2018.
It has a payload capacity of over 3,850 pounds (1,746 kilograms), which includes 3,000 pounds (1,360 kilograms) of external stores. The UAV carries 500 percent more payload and has nine times the horsepower of its predecessor.
It is capable of long-endurance, persistent surveillance, and strike capability. It can be operated by a remote pilot, sensor operator, and a Mission Intelligence Coordinator. The UAV is equipped with a fault-tolerant flight control system and triple-redundant avionics system architecture.
The Reaper is the first combat drone that can autonomously detect and destroy targets. The aircraft is battle-tested and has been seen in intense action in Middle Eastern countries including Syria, Iraq, and Iran; and in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The aerial vehicle has been acquired by the US Air Force, NASA, the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Spain among others.