A weapons supply contract for Reaper UAVs between the US government and the Italian Air Force is expected to be announced in June.
The Reaper UAV flew for the first time in 2001 and has been put into service after six years. It is being manufactured by General Atomics. The company plans to add new features to increase the endurance of the UAV to 42 h.
The imminent agreement covers supply of arms by the US government for the MQ-9 Reaper UAVs. This will increase the capabilities of the Reaper UAV. The Italian Air Force has equipped one of its squadrons with the Reaper UAVs, which is presently supporting 4,000 Italian troops in Afghanistan. Italy had wanted to arm its Reaper UAVs with weapons to increase their capability. It had recently lost a troop, who could have been saved if overhead support had been available.
Military analysts are pondering whether other nations who also possess UAVs will also want to arm their UAVs. Certain analysts feel that as Italy is a NATO partner nation it should be provided with the technology for converting the UAVs to armed versions. Others, including the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, have expressed views that the US should not share the technology.
George Little, a Pentagon representative, made a statement on the Reaper UAV arms deal, and stated that Italy was a NATO ally and an important partner. Sharing the technology will help Italy protect the country and other allies.