France has begun arming its General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with a weapon integration contract awarded on 22 March.
The contract for the France MQ-9 Block 1 Weapons Integration Effort was awarded to GA-ASI by the US Department of Defense (DoD) acting on behalf of the French government.
According to the DoD, this initial work provides for the production and integration of weapon kits onto the French Air Force MQ-9 Block 1 aircraft. It is valued at USD8.9 million and will run through to 30 September 2020.
Although the contract does not disclose the weapon types to be fitted, the Reaper's standard weapon fit in the service of other countries comprises Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and Raytheon Paveway precision-guided bombs. Jane's has previously reported that France will adopt the Hellfire missile, and that an undisclosed European weapon could be fitted later.
France has five Reaper UAVs in service (one having crashed in November 2018), with six more on order for delivery in 2019. The UAVs are performing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) duties in the Sahel region of Africa.
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