First flight by a French crew of a Reaper drone


The first fa­mil­iari­sa­tion flight of a French Air Force crew fly­ing an MQ-9 Reaper drone took place on Septem­ber 24, 2013, at the Hol­lo­man air force base in New Mex­ico, in the United States. The flight, which lasted two hours, was in­tended to fa­mil­iarise the crew with the han­dling of the air­craft and of its on­board sen­sors; the crew con­sisted of two pi­lot/op­er­a­tors with prior ex­pe­ri­ence of the French UAV sys­tems.

This first flight con­cludes the­o­ret­i­cal and prac­ti­cal train­ing cour­ses last­ing five weeks, and which in­cluded five hours on a flight sim­u­la­tor.

France’s de­fence white pa­per iden­ti­fied four prin­ci­ples for our fu­ture de­fence model that un­der­lie the choice of the equip­ment that will be pro­vided by the mil­i­tary plan­ning law. The first of th­ese prin­ci­ples is the strate­gic au­ton­omy to al­low France to have its free­dom of de­ci­sion and ac­tion. To meet this re­quire­ment, the law pro­vides for ca­pac­ity build­ing to al­low ini­tia­tive in sim­ple and prob­a­ble op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing bet­ter in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing, for ex­am­ple by us­ing medium al­ti­tude long en­durance (MALE) drones.

This is why the mil­i­tary plan­ning bill pro­vides an un­prece­dented ef­fort in the field of in­tel­li­gence in­clud­ing, in­ter alia, the ac­qui­si­tion of 12 Reaper MALE UAVs.

De­liv­ery of the first two air­craft and one ground sta­tion is sched­uled af­ter the turn of the year. To al­low their ear­li­est op­er­a­tional avail­abil­ity, three crews be­long­ing to the air force’s 1/33 “Belfort” Drone Squadron, based as Co­gnac air base, is cur­rently train­ing at Hol­lo­man air force base.

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