The United Arab Emirates has signed a $197 million deal to purchase the international version of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Predator unmanned air system.

The sale, although involving General Atomics aircraft, was technically inked with the International Golden Group (IGG), which had previously selected the Predator XP on behalf of the UAE armed forces.

 Predator XP - General Atomics

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems

In a statement, General Atomics says IGG's selection will "provide affordable, reliable and cost-effective multi-mission capabilities to the UAE armed forces for years to come."

The UAE's purchase marks the first sale of the XP export version of the venerable Predator A, called MQ-1 in US service. Several other nations already operate the Predator B/MQ-9 Reaper; a much larger and more sophisticated version of the UAS. Those nations are all members of NATO, which receives special treatment under US anti-arms trafficking rules.

Italy and the UK currently operate the Reaper, and at least two other NATO nations have shown strong interest in a procurement.

"This is the first sale of Predator XP, the first time a non-NATO country is able to buy our technology," says General Atomics. The aircraft, unlike the US version, are not capable of carrying weapons, and will be flown in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance role. The XP offers a flight endurance of up to 35h, and can reach a maximum altitude of 25,000ft (7,620m), according to its manufacturer.

Source: Flight International