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Italy flies first Block 5 Reaper

A file photo of an Italian Reaper unmanned aircraft. The country is upgrading its fleet to the latest Block 5 standard. (GA-ASI)

The Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana: AMI) has flown its first Block 5 version of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aircraft system (UAS).

The manufacturer announced the milestone on 5 December, saying the first flight of the remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) took place some weeks earlier on 9 November.

β€œThe new RPA was delivered to the [AMI], along with a new mobile ground control station (MGCS), as part of a mid-life modernisation (MLM) update to the [Italian] fleet of RPAs from GA-ASI. The aircraft and MGCS are part of a Foreign Military Sales,” General Atomics said.

The Block 5 improves on earlier versions of the Reaper in that it provides a significant increase in electrical power generation, auto take-off and landing capability with improved landing gear and datalinks, and features the latest version of the GA-ASI Lynx multimode radar.

The AMI originally received six MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aircraft, one of which was lost over Libya in November 2019. With one of the remaining five now upgraded to Block 5 standard, the other four will be retrofitted to the same configuration as well.

The type is operated by the AMI's 32Β° Stormo (Wing) based at Amendola in southern Italy.

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