GA-ASI to upgrade Italian Air Force MQ-9A Predator B MALE UAVs to Block 5 standard

by Alessandra Giovanzanti

The Italian Air Force's fleet of five MQ-9A Predator B MALE UAVs will receive Block 5 upgrades under a USD30.5 million contract awarded to GA-ASI on 8 September. (GA-ASI)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) was awarded a USD30.5 million contract to upgrade Aeronautica Militare Italiana (Italian Air Force, AMI) MQ-9A Predator B medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Block 5 standard, the US Department of Defense (DoD) has announced.

The MQ-9 mid-life modernisation (MLM) contract, awarded under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme on 8 September, includes all five Lot 1 MQ-9A UAVs and Block 30 mobile ground control stations currently in service with the AMI. The contract will run through to 31 January 2023.

GA-ASI first announced the MLM programme for the Italian MQ-9 fleet in a press release on 27 May, in which European regional vice president Scott Smith was quoted as saying, “These enhancements give Italian forces the ability to see better and more clearly than ever with their MQ-9 RPA [remotely piloted aircraft].”

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Ukraine conflict: Baykar to donate further TB2 UCAVs to Kyiv

by Gareth Jennings

Baykar is to donate three further Bayraktar TB2 UCAVs to Ukraine, to add to the one aircraft it gifted earlier in June. (Baykar)

Baykar, the Turkish manufacturer of the Bayraktar TB2, is to donate additional unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) to Ukraine, refusing to accept crowd-funded payment for the aircraft.

Baykar announced the gifting of three UCAVs on 27 June, saying that “The People's Bayraktar” campaign to raise funding for the procurement should instead redirect the monies raised to “the struggling people of Ukraine”.

“Baykar will not accept payment for the TB2, and we will send three UAVs free of charge to the Ukrainian war front,” the company said.

This latest donation comes about three weeks after Baykar said it would donate a Lithuanian-funded Bayraktar to Ukraine, also saying that the funds collected by the Lithuanian public for the purchase should instead be given to Kyiv for humanitarian aid.

While Baykar did not disclose the level of funding raised, Lithuania's Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said that EUR6 million (USD6.4 million) had been collected for the single Bayraktar.

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Djibouti parades Bayraktar UCAVs

by Gareth Jennings

A file image of the Baykar Bayraktar TB2 UCAV, which Djibouti received from Turkey. (Baykar)

Djibouti has revealed itself to be an operator of the Baykar Bayraktar TB2, parading the Turkish-built unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) at its independence day celebrations on 27 June.

Two Bayraktar UCAVs were showcased in a military parade to mark the 45th anniversary of independence for the east African country, with each being transported on the back of a flatbed truck.

With both UCAVs featuring the national flag of Djibouti and the markings of the Djibouti Air Force (Force Aerienne du Djibouti: FAD), one aircraft carried two underwing Roketsan MAM-L smart micro munitions, while the second was unarmed.

Although the procurement/sale and delivery of the Bayraktar TB2 have not been announced by either the Djibouti or Turkish governments, and they do not appear in any satellite imagery of the Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport (the sole operating base for the FAD), online flight tracking services recorded an Ilyushin Il-76 heavy-lift cargo aircraft operating between the two countries in early June.

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ILA 2022: War in Ukraine driving Eastern European interest in contractor-supplied helicopters

by Gareth Jennings

IDA Group displayed one of its Black Hawk helicopters at the ILA 2022 event in Berlin. (Janes/Gareth Jennings)

The ongoing war in Ukraine is driving Eastern European interest in acquiring contractor-supplied light attack and transport helicopters, a provider told Janes on 23 June.

Speaking at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Lukas Hollnsteiner, International Defense and Aerospace Group (IDAG) director of sales, said that with many Eastern European countries operating Warsaw Pact-era helicopters, hostilities between Ukraine and Russia mean that it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain these helicopters in an airworthy condition.

“Ukraine has certainly changed things, with the Mi-8 and Mi-17 types flown across Eastern Europe being in limbo [in terms of their sustainment and support],” Hollnsteiner said.

Based in Titusville in the US, Budapest in Hungary, Prague in the Czech Republic, and Košice in Slovakia, IDAG is the exclusive supplier to Eastern Europe of the MD Helicopters Inc (MDHI) MD 530F light helicopter, and also provides surplus US Army UH-60 Black Hawks.

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General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) was awarded a USD30.5 million contract to upgrade ...

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