Italy flies first Predator B sortie over Libya

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The Italian air force has flown its first mission over Libya with a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Predator B unmanned air vehicle, according to an operational update released by the nation's defence ministry on 12 August.

The aircraft took off from Amendola air base, near Foggia, Italy, to conduct an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission, returning to the base about 12h later, the ministry said.

Informed sources said the mission was launched on 10 August.

According to procedures agreed with the Italian air traffic control agency and other civil aviation agencies, the Predator B would have followed a series of dedicated air corridors over the Adriatic, Ionian and central Mediterranean seas, before entering the Libyan area of operations.

The Italian air force has, within the last month, achieved initial operational capability with the first two of six Predator Bs.

Another two will follow by the end of the year, and the remainder will arrive by mid-2012.

The type is assigned to the service's 28 Sqn, which also flies MQ-1C Predator A+ air vehicles.

Speaking to Flight International in June, air force chief of staff Lt Gen. Giuseppe Bernardis revealed that the Predator B could be put at the disposal of NATO's Operation Unified Protector campaign after entering frontline use.