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

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, โ€œThese enhancements give Italian forces the ability to see better and more clearly than ever with their MQ-9 RPA [remotely piloted aircraft].โ€

The Block 5 system features the latest version of the GA-ASI AN/APY-8 Lynx multimode radar and Raytheon's AN/DAS-1 MTS-B Multi-Spectral Targeting System, as well as improved landing gear and increased electrical power capability, according to GA-ASI.

Originally, the AMI operated six MQ-9 Predator Bs, which it procured in the 2010s, but one crashed in Libya in November 2019. The systems were procured to support intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions and are currently unarmed.

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