Reaper drone mystery arises from speculative news stories

Reaper drone mystery arises from speculative news stories

Reaper drone mystery arises from speculative news stories

This file photo shows the US unmanned aerial vehicle Predator B on display at Le Bourget airport, near Paris on June 18 during the 50th International Paris Air Show in France. AFP photo

One angry newspaper headline read: “Yes to Israel; No to Turkey!” The story claimed that the United States would deliver the armed Reaper MQ-9 drones to Israel while effectively putting a “hold” on Turkey’s request to buy the same aircraft. Another headline claimed that the U.S. would sell the Reaper to Germany but not to Turkey. And another headline read: “Yes to Italy; No to Turkey!” Again, the Reapers.

And, most recently, the same headline appeared in exactly the same pattern: The Yes/No comparison with the name of a different country.

Most recently, at the end of June, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to France of 16 MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $1.5 billion.

Under the deal, the French government requested the possible sale of:

- 16 MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft

- Eight Mobile Ground Control Stations (GCS)

- 48 Honeywell TPE331-10T Turboprop Engines (16 installed and 32 spares)

- 24 Satellite Earth Terminal Substations

- 40 Ku Band Link-Airborne Communication Systems

- 40 General Atomics Lynx (exportable) Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator (SAR/GMTI) Systems

- 40 AN/DAS-1 Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems (MTS)-B

- 40 Ground Data Terminals

- 40 ARC-210 Radio Systems

- 40 Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems

- 48 AN/APX-119 and KIV-119 Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) Systems

Also included in the sale package are spare and repair parts, communication, test, and support equipment, publications and technical documentation, airworthiness and maintenance support, site surveys and bed down planning, personnel training and training equipment, operational flight test, U.S. government and contractor technical and logistics personnel services, and other related elements of logistics support.

So, “Yes to France; No to Turkey?” At least so, according to headlines in the Turkish press. But no.

The French shopping list for the MQ-9 talks about almost every item when governments buy complicated weapons systems but lacks one: arms. In short, Paris has requested to acquire the unarmed Reaper for “reconnaissance and surveillance purposes only.”

France requests the Reapers to provide for the defense of its deployed troops, regional security, and interoperability with the U.S., according to defense analysts. The proposed sale will improve France’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing improved intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance coverage that promotes increased battlefield situational awareness, anticipates enemy intent, augments combat search and rescue, and provides ground troop support.

Italy’s request to arm its Reaper fleet has remained unanswered for more than two years and Britain is still the only U.S. ally in the world that possesses the armed Reapers – and that’s for the Afghan military campaign.

“Congress’s reluctance to grant permission to transfer the MQ-9 to our Turkish allies is because Ankara has been vehemently requesting its armed version,” said one U.S. defense official. “In short, it is not that the U.S. does not grant Reapers to Turkey, but it is just reluctant to grant armed Reapers.”

The MQ-9 Reaper, also known as the RQ-9 Predator B, is the first hunter-killer unmanned aerial vehicle designed for high-altitude surveillance and assault. The MQ-9 Reaper was developed by the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

General Atomics wanted to sell the Predator, the MQ-9’s unarmed, much less agile version, to Turkey in the mid 2000s, but lost in a competition with Israel, which at the time proposed the Heron system.