A French air force crew conducted their first familiarization flight of a flying an MQ-9 Reaper drone on Tuesday, September 24, 2013, at the Holloman air force base in New Mexico, in the United States.
The flight, which lasted two hours, was intended to familiarize the crew with the handling of the aircraft and of its on-board sensors; the crew consisted of two pilot/operators with prior experience of the French UAV systems.
France’s defense White Paper identified four principles for our future defense model that underlie the choice of the equipment that will be provided by the military planning law. The first of these principles is the strategic autonomy to allow France to have its freedom of decision and action. To meet this requirement, the law provides for capacity building to allow initiative in simple and probable operations, including better intelligence-gathering, for example by using Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drones, according to an official statement.
This is why the military planning bill provides an unprecedented effort in the field of intelligence including, inter alia, the acquisition of 12 Reaper MALE UAVs.
Delivery of the first two aircraft and one ground station is scheduled after the turn of the year. To allow their earliest operational availability, three crews belonging to the air force’s 1/33 "Belfort" Drone Squadron, based as Cognac air base, are currently training at Holloman air force base.