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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USMC takes official delivery of Reaper UASs

by Gareth Jennings

US Marine Corps personnel control a government-owned and government-operated Reaper unmanned aircraft for the first time in late August. GA-ASO announced the official handover of ownership to the corps on 20 October. (USMC)

The US Marine Corps (USMC) has taken official ownership of two General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9A Reaper medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the manufacturer announced on 20 October.

The transfer of the Block 5 Reapers and their associated equipment was completed from GA-ASI to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) on 15 October, marking the transition from a contractor-owned contractor-operated (COCO) to a government-owned government-operated (GOGO) model of operation for the corps.

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US Army insists on human-piloted rotorcraft for armed reconnaissance mission instead of UAV

by Pat Host

A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper UAV pictured on 5 August at March Air Reserve Base in California. The US Army insists on having a piloted rotorcraft perform the armed reconnaissance mission, though an expert said the service could do it, and do it cheaper, with an MQ-9. (US Air National Guard)

The US Army insists it needs a human-piloted Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) helicopter to perform the armed reconnaissance mission despite experts telling Janes the service could perform the mission with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Brigadier General Robert Barrie, programme executive officer for aviation, told Janes on 12 October that the existing technology requires the US Army to have a human-in-the-loop operating in the FARA for the decisions that would be required, and anticipated, for forward reconnaissance. A portion of this mission, he said, will be executed by UAVs, specifically with a combination of Air Launched Effects (ALE) and manned-unmanned teaming.

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USAF launches E-3 replacement effort, notes E-7 intent

by Gareth Jennings

Seen here in Australian service, the Boeing E-7A Wedgetail is being lined up by the US Air Force as a replacement for its ageing E-3 Sentry AWACS fleet. (DVIDS)

The US Air Force (USAF) has launched an effort to replace its ageing fleet of Boeing E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, with the intent of fielding the same company's E-7 Wedgetail.

The USAF issued a notice of contract action, titled ‘E-3 Replacement Aircraft Studies & Analyses', on 19 October, in which it announced it is to sole-source Boeing to perform studies, analyses, and activities required to ascertain the E-7A baseline configuration, and to determine what additional work the US government might need to accomplish meeting the USAF configuration standards and mandates.

“The Aircraft Rapid Prototyping Requirements Document has specifically called out the E-7A, and it has been determined that this is a sole-source requirement,” the USAF said.

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

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