Taking off from Cognac air base, the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft n° 612 made its first flight over national territory on Tuesday July 4, 2017. During 5 hours and 10 minutes, one of Drone Squadron 1/33 "Belfort’s" unmanned aircraft flew around the airspace north of the base, where it has been stationed for just a few weeks.
The main objective was to test the operation of the aircraft and of its two operator cabins (calibration of emergency parameters, verification of satellite links, etc.) and to extend LRE (Launch and Recovery Element) qualifications to land the Reaper.
These objectives were attained, and the "Belfort" squadron will now be able to operate the Reaper over metropolitan France on a daily basis, and thus giving the Air Force the increased autonomy of being able to train its own crews. By 2019, the Drone Squadron 1/33 will have twelve aircraft, operated by 30 crews.
Including Reaper No. 612, six aircraft are now operational at 1/33 "Belfort". The other five aircraft in the fleet are positioned at the expeditionary air base in Niamey, Niger. They provide intelligence and support capabilities to Operation Barkhane, but also to the Special Forces. Since their involvement in the Sub-Saharan Band began in January 2014, they have already completed over 15,000 flying hours.
The next few days will be busy for Reaper crews stationed in Cognac. Numerous missions are already noted in their shelves, starting with their participation in the particular air security system (DPSA) of the 14 July military parade in Paris.
MALE drones, indispensable tools in the conduct of operations
The drones, which have been heavily used in BSS, have logged nearly 3,000 flight hours since the beginning of 2017. Their activity has been steadily increasing since 2014. They are essential tools for the conduct of today's military operations.
Their technical specificities, and in particular their endurance, make them essential tools for providing aerial surveillance over the operations area. Providing a broad spectrum of missions ranging from intelligence to target designation, UAVs provide long-distance and persistent aerial support, and transmit real-time data to the command center.