The Italian air force is investigating the cause of a crash involving one of its upgraded General Atomics RQ-1B Predator A Plus unmanned air vehicles on 13 January.
Initial reports suggest that the ground control station lost operational control of the UAV around 1h after it had taken off from Amendola air base on a training sortie. It ditched into the Adriatic Sea and was later spotted floating on the surface by two Alenia/Embraer AMX strike aircraft launched from the same base.
The UAV was recovered the following day, but details of its condition have not been released.
Italy's air force had taken delivery of at least three of its four Predator As to be converted to the new standard before the mishap, with two new-build examples also on order.
© Italian air force
The Italian air force is investigating the cause of a crash involving one of its upgraded General Atomics RQ-1B Predator A Plus UAVs
The modification process introduces an improved engine, extended wing and a Raytheon multi-spectral targeting system-A sensor payload. Satellite communications will also enable the type to be launched and recovered in an operational theatre, but controlled from Amendola.
Italy's Predator fleet has amassed more than 6,000 flying hours, with the majority logged in Iraq and more recently Afghanistan, where the enhanced version is now deployed.
The crash is the first to have been recorded by the air force's Amendola-based 28 Sqn, although an Italian Predator A was lost in February 2004 during initial operator training in the USA.
Italy is also in the process of acquiring four Predator B/Reaper UAVs, with deliveries to start in the first quarter of this year.