WASHINGTON, June 28 (UPI) -- France is seeking to procure MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft from the United States in a package deal worth an estimated $1.5 billion.
News of the proposed sale, reported to Congress by the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, closely follows word from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., maker of the Predator B unmanned aerial vehicle that it planned to develop a variant of the aircraft that would meet NATO and general European civil airworthiness requirements
The MQ-9 Reaper is another name for the Predator B, a hunter/killer unmanned aerial vehicle designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance. Intelligence and reconnaissance missions by the U.S. Air force. It has a maximum speed of 300 mph, a service ceiling of 50,000 feet, an operational ceiling of 25,000 feet and an endurance of 14 hours when fully loaded.
U.S. allies using the aircraft are Britain and Italy.
'Predator B is the most cost-effective and best-valued RPA in its class and continues to draw significant interest from our NATO allies," Neal Blue, chairman and chief executive officer of GA-ASI, had said in announcing the effort. "It is imperative that we ensure airworthiness certification of Predator B both at home and abroad as coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan and nations transition mission focus to protection of the homeland and other civil uses."
The BQ-9 Reaper package requested by France includes 16 aircraft, eight mobile ground control stations, 48 Honeywell TPE331-10T turboprop engines, 24 satellite Earth terminal sub-stations, 40 Ku band link-airborne communication systems, 40 General Atomics Lynx (exportable) synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator systems, 40 AN/DAS-1 multispectral targeting systems, and 40 ground data terminals.
Other elements of the Foreign Military Sales contract, if approved by Congress, are radio systems, global positioning/inertial navigation systems, spare and repair parts, test, and support equipment, publications and technical documentation, and airworthiness and maintenance support.
A representative from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. would be required to make multiple trips to France to provide initial launch, recovery and maintenance support.
"France requests these capabilities to provide for the defense of its deployed troops, regional security and interoperability with the U.S," DSCA said. "The proposed sale will improve France's capability to meet current and future threats by providing improved ISR coverage that promotes increased battlefield situational awareness, anticipates enemy intent, augments combat search and rescue, and provides ground troop support."
In other developments, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said it has received contract requests from Finland and Qatar.
Finland is seeking an FMS of follow-on equipment and support for its mid-life upgrade of F-18 aircraft.
The estimated value of the contract would be $170 million.
The FMS covers F-18C/D fleet retrofit kits of the following systems: KIV-78 Mode 5 identification friend or foe systems, AN/APX-11-30 combined interrogator/transponders, multifunctional information distribution systems and SUU-63 pylons.
"The Finnish air force ... needs this upgrade to keep pace with technology advances in sensors, weaponry, and communications," the U.S. agency said.
Principle contractor would be Raytheon.
Qatar, meanwhile, has requested two F117-PW-100 spare engines, other parts and logistical support for its C-17 Globemaster airlifters. The value of the contract is $35 million.