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Italian Air Force MQ-9s set for upgrade to Block 5 configuration

Aeronautica Militare MQ-9A
Photo: Italian Air Force

The Italian Air Force has partnered with the US government and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) for the mid-life update of its fleet of MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and ground control stations (GCS).

The Italian Air Force’s mid-life modernization (MLM) program will include updates to the MQ-9s which will improve them from Block 1 to Block 5 configuration.

The Block 5 system includes an increased electrical power capability, improved landing gear and the latest versions of the GA-ASI Lynx multi-mode radar and Raytheon electro-optical sensors.

“The Italian Air Force has long been a leader in the utilization of MQ-9 RPA to support a wide range of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions in Italy, over the Mediterranean, and in support of NATO operations,” said GA-ASI European regional vice president, Scott Smith. “These enhancements give Italian forces the ability to see better and more clearly than ever with their MQ-9 RPAs and we’re proud to work with the ItAF to update their existing fleet.”

GA-ASI’s announcement on the Italian Air Force modernization program coincided with an $11 million contract modification from the US Marine Corps for support to Marine Corps operations using contractor-owned/contractor-operated MQ-9 Reaper UAS.

Earlier this week, the US State Department also approved the sale of contractor logistics support (CLS) for MQ-9A Block 5 RPAS flown by the Spanish Air Force. The program has a total estimated cost of $110 million. Spain received the final of four MQ-9As in December 2020.