The defence committee of the Italian House of Representatives has passed a proposal to procure four General Atomics Predator B unmanned air vehicles for the nation's air force, with the aircraft to join four in-service Predator As.

Expected to cost the defence ministry €80 million ($117 million) by 2011, the procurement has been approved despite the recent dissolution of Italy's parliament in advance of a general election expected to take place on 13-14 April.

Flown by the air force's Amendola-based 32nd Wing, Italy's current Predator A fleet has amassed more than 3,000 flight hours, including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Offering a mission endurance of up to 30h, the larger and faster Predator B is already in service with the UK Royal Air Force and the US Air Force to support surveillance activities in Afghanistan, with the latter also having used the UAV to deploy air-to-surface weapons.

Source: Flight International