French MQ-9 UAVs will get ELINT for situational intelligence

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PARIS, ($1=0.88 Euros) – In June 2021, the Delegate General for Armaments [DGA], Joël Barre, had deplored the lack of enthusiasm of the United States to provide an electronic intelligence capability [ELINT] to French MQ Reaper Block 5 drones implemented by the Air & Space Force [AAE].

Photo credit: Wikipedia

“We still don’t know the signals intelligence capability payload. We have been talking to the Americans for a long time to get it, but they are taking their time to provide it to us because it is sensitive equipment,” explained Mr. Barre, during a parliamentary hearing.

More than six months later, the situation seems to be unblocked, learned, citing opex360. Indeed, in a notice published on January 14, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency [DSCA], responsible for the export of American military equipment via the so-called “Foreign Military Sales” [FMS] mechanism, recommended that Congress authorize the sale of eight electromagnetic intelligence pods dedicated to the interception of communications [COMINT – Communication Intelligence].

The notice specifies that the French request initially related to five nacelles of this type, for a total cost of $71 million.

The amount of the “potential” sale of these eight nacelles intended for the MQ-9 Reaper of the AAE is estimated at $88 million. “Actual dollar value will be lower based on final requirements, budget authorization, and signed sales agreements if completed,” the agency said.

“The proposed sale will improve France’s ability to deal with current and future threats […]. The French MQ-9 fleet provides intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance services that support coalition operations. France will have no difficulty in absorbing this equipment into its armies”, underlines the DSCA in its opinion.

The nacelles in question, the type of which has not been specified, will be produced by the site owned by BAE Systems in York [Pennsylvania]. They will allow the French MQ-9s to detect, locate, intercept and even jam communications.

This notice from the DSCA follows the one published a week earlier about, again, the MQ-9 Reaper from the AAE. For an amount estimated at 300 million dollars [approximately 263 million euros], it recommends that Congress accept a contract to be notified to General Atomics [the manufacturer of the Reaper] to ensure the logistical support of the twelve drones French, via the supply of spare parts, “accessories” and software.


ELINT [electronic intelligence], records and analyzes non-communication radio signals, generally radar transmissions, to provide situational intelligence. It relies on dedicated passive or active electronic sensors and a chain of analysis modules, using an evolving database of known radar signatures.


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