Italian MQ-9A fleet to receive mid-life update

The Aeronautica Militare Italiana (AMI, Italian Air Force) has partnered with the US government and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) to provide a mid-life update (MLU) for its fleet of MQ-9A remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and associated ground control stations.

GA-ASI announced that the two nations will work with the firm on this project on May 27, adding that the partnership comes as part of a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) agreement. This MLU aims to upgrade the AMI’s five-strong fleet of MQ-9A Reapers – known locally by GA-ASI's original designation as Predator Bs – from its current Block 1 configuration to Block 5 standard. Italy’s decision to update its Predator B fleet falls under the air force’s wider Mid-Life Modernisation (MLM) programme.

Italian Predator B in flight [Italian Air Force]
An Italian Air Force-operated MQ-9A Predator B - serial IT09-149 - conducts a local sortie over Italy. In total, the Italian air arm maintains a fleet of five Predator Bs, which are operated by 28° Gruppo (22nd Group) from Amendola Air Base. Italian Air Force

Scott Smith, GA-ASI’s European Regional Vice President, said: “The Italian Air Force has long been a leader in the utilisation of [the] 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. 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 Italian Air Force to update their existing fleet.”

The Block 5 configuration of the MQ-9A features the latest versions of GA-ASI’s AN/APY-8 Lynx multi-mode radar and Raytheon’s AN/DAS-1 MTS-B Multi-Spectral Targeting System (an electro-optical/infrared sensor). It also includes an improved landing gear and an electrical power capability, which has been significantly increased over previous configurations of the platform.

AirForces Intelligence data states that the AMI has operated the MQ-9A Predator B since July 2010. In total, six examples were delivered to the service, although one was lost to attrition during operations over Libya on November 20, 2019. The AMI’s MQ-9A fleet is operated by 28° Gruppo (22nd Group) from Amendola Air Base, which is located in Italy’s Foggia province.