General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) delivered the final two MQ-9A Block 5 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), together with a ground control station (GCS), to the Spanish Air Force on 23 November, the company announced on 30 November. The delivery completes a Foreign Military Sales acquisition of four aircraft and three GCS. The new platforms will be operated by the Air Force’s 233 Squadron at Talavera la Real Air Base, near Badajoz.
The delivery was preceded by acceptance tests in California in September, witnessed the US Air Force MQ-9 System Program Office (SPO), acting on behalf of Spain’s Directorate General for Armament and Materiel (DGAM) procurement team as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. The successful test outcome, in conjunction with the integration of System 1 by the Spanish Air Force in Badajoz, resulted in Spain’s issuance of an Airworthiness Military Type Certificate for the aircraft, which is first time this has been done for the MQ-9A Block 5. This measure certifies that the entire system, including maintenance, is safe for personnel in the air and on the ground – and is a key hurdle to clear in order to operate in national airspace.
“We appreciate the confidence the Spanish authorities have shown in the MQ-9 by issuing this type certificate and we look forward to seeing the system successfully operate in support of the country´s national [ISR] requirements,” commented Tommy Dunehew, VP International Strategic Development at GA-ASI.
In addition to marking the first issuance of the military type certificate, the Spanish programme represents the first MQ-9A Block 5 acquisition by an international partner. Other milestones for the programme have included the Spanish Air Force taking initial delivery of the aircraft at the end of 2019 and launching the first flight in January 2020: 233 Squadron has flown nearly 300 hours with its MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft and is steadily building expertise as the Air Force moves towards declaring initial operational capability for the system.