General Atomics has won a contract valued $28 million to weaponized French MQ-9 Reaper drones besides integrating FMS pods.
“General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, California, has been awarded a $28 million contract action for the France MQ-9 Block 5 weaponization and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Pod integration effort. This contract provides for the weaponization of the French Air Force MQ-9 Block 5 aircraft and integration of the FMS Pod onto the French Air Force MQ-9 Block 5 aircraft,” the U.S. Department of Defense said in a statement today.
Work is expected to be completed September 30, 2021.
The U.S. State Department approved the sale of 16 unarmed MQ-9s, associated equipment, ground control hardware, and support, worth up to $1.5 billion total. Although the Reapers were capable of carrying weapons back then, France had chosen earlier to not to arm them.
In January 2014, French Air Force took delivery of MQ-9 (Block 1) Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Reaper drones and deployed them at Niamey Air Base in Niger for border reconnaissance in the Sahel desert. These drones complemented Harfang drones that are already operating in various theaters.
By using optical and radar sensors to effect real-time monitoring, the range and endurance of the Reaper drones allowed the French forces to operate throughout the Sahel-Saharan strip.