General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) delivered the last two MQ-9A Block 5 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and final ground control station to the Spanish Air Force on November 23.
This delivery – which was announced by GA-ASI on November 30 – completes the Foreign Military Sale of four MQ-9A Block 5s and three ground control stations to Spain. The deal was approved by the US State Department in October 2015 for an estimated cost of US$243m, with Spain becoming the first international customer for this specific version of the MQ-9A family. In Spanish Air Force service, the new RPAs will be operated by the 233rd Squadron at Talavera la Real air base, located near the city of Badajoz, Spain.
The final delivery was preceded by acceptance test procedures (ATPs), which were completed at the firm’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility near Palmdale, California, on September 29. GA-ASI states that “the successful ATPs, in conjunction with the integration of System 1 by the [Spanish Air Force] in Badajoz, Spain, resulted in Spain’s issuance of an Airworthiness Military Type Certificate for the aircraft.” The issuing of this certificate was a first for the MQ-9A Block 5 platform and it certifies that the entire system is safe for air and ground personnel.
Tommy Dunehew, vice president of International Strategic Development for GA-ASI, said: “We appreciate the confidence the Spanish authorities have shown in the MQ-9 by issuing this type of certificate and we look forward to seeing the system successfully operate in support of the country’s national intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) requirements.”
Since the delivery of the first MQ-9A Block 5 to the Spanish Air Force in late 2019, 233rd Squadron has flown nearly 300 flight hours on the platform. It continues to work up the expertise of air and ground crew members and maintainers as the air arm moves towards declaring initial operational capability (IOC) with the platform.