The French air force is purchasing three additional MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft to augment its existing fleet, French acquisition officials announced. France is looking to purchase 16 Reapers under a possible $1.2 billion foreign military sale requested in 2013, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. The NATO ally currently operates a single combat air patrol of MQ-9s, primarily supporting combat operations in North and West Africa from Niamey, Niger. The Armée de l’Air plans to take delivery of a second CAP of three aircraft next year, and the most recent order will boost the fleet to nine MQ-9s, comprising three CAPs by 2019, according to France’s defense acquisition agency. Officials plan to purchase a fourth CAP in the near future, bringing the fleet to 12 aircraft, officials stated. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems delivered the third MQ-9 to the Armée de l’Air, completing its first CAP in June, UPI reported.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.