(Source: Defensenews.com – Pierre Tran) – France, US are negotiating ISR capability for Reaper drones, official reveals
PARIS — French and U.S. officials are conducting highly sensitive talks about fitting an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance pod on medium-altitude, long-endurance Reaper drones ordered by the French Air Force, an Armed Forces Ministry official said.
The discussions are taking a methodical pace because the subject of off-the-shelf ISR payloads and issues such as where UAVs can fly are considered sensitive to the U.S., the official noted Feb. 21.
That acquisition of a U.S. kit and other planned orders are part of a French Air Force modernization effort set out in the recently announced 2019-2025 military budget law.
The ISR pods would be fitted on the last six General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 drones ordered by France. The Reapers are due to be delivered next year.
The first six French Reapers ordered by France will be upgraded to Block 5.
France will arm the Reapers, which will initially carry the Hellfire missile, the official said. Later, the UAVs will be armed with European weapons including Brimstone and MMP missiles. (…)
Nonetheless, France is committed to the combat drone project, which promotes strong bilateral cooperation with the U.K., the official added. (…)
France is also pursuing a European MALE UAV project with Germany, Spain and Italy. (…)
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Photo Credit >>> a Reaper being maintained in a hangar in Niamey, Niger © Murielle Delaporte, juillet 2016