On November 9, 2023, the Italian Air Force (ItAF) completed its inaugural flight with a brand new MQ-9A Block 5 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) that was built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI). Along with a new Mobile Ground Control Station (MGCS), the new RPA was supplied to the ItAF as part of a Mid-Life Modernization (MLM) update that was performed on the fleet of RPAs that the ItAF possesses from GA-ASI. The aircraft and MGCS are included within a Foreign Military Sale context.
In addition to the most recent version of the GA-ASI Lynx Multi-mode Radar, the Block 5 RPA offers a significant increase in the amount of electrical power that can be generated, its ability to do auto takeoff and landing, and improvements to the landing gear and datalinks.
According to Jaime Walters, the Vice President of International Strategic Development for the General Atomics and Space Institute (GA-ASI), the Italian Air Force has long been a leader in using the MQ-9 Reaper to support a wide range of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions in Italy, over the Mediterranean, and in support of NATO operations. The arrival of this new Block 5 and MGCS will assist in updating the fleet currently in use by the Italian Air Force.
There are now four Block 1s and two Block 15 MGCSs in the Italian Air Force’s fleet of RPAs.