The French Air Force has completed their first flight of a General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), it was announced on 26 September.
The flight took place on 24 September, lasting for two hours, with two French Air Force pilots operating the medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV.
France formally requested the purchase of 16 Reapers for USD1.5 billion in a US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) request of 27 June.
France’s defence funding programme, the ‘Project de Loi de Programmation Militaire 2014-2019’ (LPM) of August pegged the French MALE requirement down to 12 systems, with the purchase of an initial 2 aircraft to be accelerated for delivery in late 2013. According to the 26 September announcement, delivery of the first two Reapers and a ground station is now forecast for the beginning of 2014. The LPM expects that all 12 systems will be in operational service by 2019, remaining in service until between 2023 and 2025 – after which France may seek to purchase a European designed system.