Spain has moved forward with its procurement of unarmed MQ-9 Reapers after putting California-based remotely piloted aircraft manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems on contract for four aircraft and two Block 30 ground control stations.
Madrid selected the Block 5 “Predator B” in mid-2015 over the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron TP to meet the Spanish Air Force’s Class III unmanned air vehicle requirement.
As Flight International reported in November, Spain could seek to arm its Reapers, but first needs permission from the US government, which has already authorised the UK and Italy to integrate their fleets with precision-guided missiles such as the Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire. France also operates unarmed types.
US Air Force
According to General Atomics, Spain's four aircraft and associated control stations represent one complete Reaper system. Each aircraft comes equipped with the company’s own Lynx multi-mode synthetic aperture radar and Raytheon-built EO/IR multispectral targeting sensor.
“GA-ASI is proud to partner with the Spanish armed forces to offer our operationally proven Predator B RPA to fulfill Spain’s emerging multi-mission requirements,” says company chief executive Linden Blue.
General Atomics is teamed with Spanish engineering and technology firm SENER to stand up local MQ-9 operations. SENER vice-president Andrés Sendagorta says his firm has been backing the MQ-9 for some time, and the deal will strengthen Spain’s defence apparatus and protect its troops.
An MQ-9 carries up to 386kg (850lbs) of gadgets internally and 1,700kg (3,750 lbs) externally, including weapons and sensors. It can climb to 50,000ft and stay airborne for 27h.
The US government disclosed in an October foreign military sales notice that Spain's order is worth up to $80 million for the main hardware, but the total package including spare parts, support equipment and three years of logistics support is closer to $243 million.