Software upgrade to French Reaper UAVs allows for operations over home territory
The 2408 software version allows for the implementation of new armament and communications-intelligence capabilities. The trials were carried out by the country’s military aviation expertise centre as well as the DGA Flight Test Center of Expertise and Test and were supported by the French Air and Space Force.
The test flights were accompanied by two Dassault Rafale multirole fighter jets and it is expected all French Reapers will be upgraded to the v2408 software by the end of 2023. Importantly, the upgrade will allow the aircraft to operate from and over French territory as well as train on French soil with limited constraints.
The first French Block 5 aircraft was delivered in January 2020 but remained inactive because it lacked flight clearance from the defence procurement agency DGA. It was not until March that the first flight of a Block 5 Reaper occurred, with the first operational mission being conducted in May 2021.
France has deployed its armed Reapers to Niger and it was reported in May last year that a Block 1 variant crashed as it was preparing to land at Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey. It was diverted away from the airport. Five years earlier another French reaper crashed in Niger after operations in Mali.
In August 2021 France’s Ministry of Armed Forces reported that a French Block 5 Reaper dropped a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb for the first time in the Sahel region as part of Operation Barkhane.
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