France’s lead pair of pilots for the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Reaper unmanned air vehicle have gained their first experience of flying the type.

Achieved during a 2h training sortie conducted from the US Air Force’s Holloman AFB in New Mexico on 24 September, the milestone was passed just months before the French air force is due to receive its first Reaper system equipment.

Both with prior experience in operating UAVs, the first two French pilots took the controls of a USAF Reaper (file image below) for the first time following a five-week ground-based training course and 5h spent in a flight simulator, the nation’s air force says.

MQ-9 Reaper - USAF

US Air Force

Two additional crews from the service’s Cognac-based 1/33 Sqn are also currently receiving instruction on the medium-altitude, long-endurance aircraft at the US facility.

General Atomics is due to deliver two unarmed Reaper air vehicles and one ground control station to the French air force around the end of this year. Paris plans to eventually have an operational fleet comprising four systems of three aircraft and ground control system equipment each.