The French air force’s MQ-9 Reaper made its first flight in France today. This “first” has achieved all its objectives, and paves the way for routine use of the drone on the national territory. Another flight is planned for tomorrow, July 5.
Today's flight lasted 5 houts and 10 minutes, and took place in the airspace north of Cognac, where the squadron operating this craft is based. The aircraft landed at 4:40 pm local time.
The first flight was expected earlier, and its deployment over the Paris Air Show was even considered, but ultimately administrative difficulties prevented its delayed it.
The Reaper should however appear during the July 14 Bastille Day celebrations, both as an additional surveillance asset and to demonstrate , it will be both an additional watch item and a demonstration of the air force’s know-how.
The French air force has deployed five similar Predator drones in the Saharan-Sahel Band in Western Africa, where it primarily supports missions carried out by special forces units.
Since 2003, the French air force has been using long-endurance drones for missions over its national territory.
The most recent instance was during last year’s Festival of Lights, when Air-Defense Command deployed a Harfang (modified IAI Heron) to provide a security overwatch.
In this logic, the Air Force seeks to bring its skills in the field of drones, which have the advantage of endurance far superior to all existing aircraft, to benefit homeland security and internal security missions.