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France’s Ministry of Armed Forces announced that one of its MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 drones successfully executed its first airstrike in an “operational setting.”
The airstrike on 17 August involved a French Air and Space Force surveillance and attack Reaper dropping a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb as part of Operation ‘Barkhane’ in the Sahel region of northern Africa.
“Today, it is done, the armed Reaper Block 5 is used in operations in the Sahelo-Saharan Band,” the ministry said. “The AAE thus has a drone offering better video and radar quality, improved connectivity, as well as a more versatile weapon capacity,” it added
France currently has six Reaper Block 1 and six Reaper Block 5 UAVs, and is in the process of acquiring a further six Block 5 vehicles for a total fleet of 12 (two of these additional vehicles were contracted earlier in 2021).
These Block 5 aircraft will be armed with GBU-12 Paveway precision-guided bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles, and will also be equipped with a pod for electronic intelligence gathering.
As noted by the Ministére des Armées in its announcement of the first GBU-12 drop, the next milestone will validate the Reaper Block 5 to carry the GBU-49 bomb and the Hellfire missile, as reported by janes.com.
Used primarily by the United States Air Force, the MQ-9 Reaper 5 is manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. However, the surveillance and attack drone has been purchased for deployment by partner countries including Australia, Italy, Germany, Spain, and France.