French Reaper Block 5 UAV conducts first airstrike

by Gareth Jennings

France has conducted its first airstrike from a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the Ministére des Armées announced on 24 August.

The first airstrike by France using a Reaper Block 5 UAV took place over North Africa on 17 August. (Ministére des Armées)

The first airstrike by France using a Reaper Block 5 UAV took place over North Africa on 17 August. (Ministére des Armées)

The airstrike on 17 August involved a French Air and Space Force (l'Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace [AAE]) Reaper dropping a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb as part of Operation ‘Barkhane' in the Sahel region of northern Africa.

“Today, it is done, the armed Reaper Block 5 is used in operations in the Sahelo-Saharan Band,” the ministry said. “The AAE thus has a drone offering better video and radar quality, improved connectivity, as well as a more versatile weapon capacity,” it added

France currently has six Reaper Block 1 and six Reaper Block 5 UAVs, and is in the process of acquiring a further six Block 5 vehicles for a total fleet of 12 (two of these additional vehicles were contracted earlier in 2021). These Block 5 aircraft will be armed with GBU-12 Paveway precision-guided bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, and will also be equipped with a Foreign Military Sales (FMS)-acquired pod for electronic intelligence gathering.

As noted by the Ministére des Armées in its announcement of the first GBU-12 drop, the next milestone will validate the Reaper Block 5 to carry the GBU-49 bomb and the Hellfire missile.

As previously noted by Janes

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France has conducted its first airstrike from a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ...

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