General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) delivered the final two MQ-9A Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and a Ground Control Station (GCS) to the Spanish Air Force (SpAF) on November 23, 2020, completing a Foreign Military Sales acquisition of four aircraft and three GCSs.
The new MQ-9s will be operated by the 233rd Squadron at Talavera la Real Air Base near Badajoz, Spain.
In September, GA-ASI said it will integrate NATO pod produced by Spanish firm SENER Aeroespacial onto the drones to increase its configuration and payload options.
The final delivery was preceded by acceptance test procedures (ATP) completed at GA-ASI's Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility near Palmdale, Calif. on Sep. 29, 2020. The ATPs were witnessed by the U.S. Air Force MQ-9 System Program Office (SPO) acting on behalf of Spain’s Directorate General for Armament and Materiel (DGAM) procurement team due to COVID-19 restrictions. The successful ATPs, in conjunction with the integration of System 1 by the SpAF in Badajoz, Spain, resulted in Spain’s issuance of an Airworthiness Military Type Certificate for the aircraft, which is first time this has been done for the MQ-9A Block 5. This measure certifies that the entire system, including the maintenance, is safe for personnel in the air and on the ground. It is also a key hurdle to clear to operate in national airspace.
Besides being the first for the issuance of the Airworthiness Military Type Certificate, Spain’s program represents the first MQ-9A Block 5 acquisition by an international partner. Other milestones for the program have included the SpAF taking initial delivery of its MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft at the end of 2019 and launching its first flight in January 2020. The 233rd Squadron has flown nearly 300 hours with its MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft and is steadily building the expertise of its crewmembers and maintainers as the SpAF moves towards declaring the Initial Operational Capability for the system.