From next year onward, the Spanish military will count on drones that are able to fly for periods of more than 24 hours, above an altitude of 10,000 meters. Spain’s Defense Ministry has included a €25 million item in the 2016 budget, for the “acquisition of the RPAS unmanned air system, for joint use by the armed forces.” According to the investment plan that accompanies the budget, the program will cost a total of €171 million between 2016 and 2020.
The government is aiming to acquire four drones in total, with two ground control stations (one fixed, another mobile), as well as the accompanying equipment.
The Defense Ministry has chosen the MQ-9 Reaper, from the US firm General Atomics, and the Heron TP from Israel Aerospace Industries
The Defense Ministry has chosen two offers: the MQ-9 Reaper, from the US firm General Atomics, allied with Spanish company Sener; and the Heron TP from Israel Aerospace Industries, with Spanish technology firm Indra as their domestic partner.
While the system will be the responsibility of the Chiefs of Defense Staff, given that it is a joint program, the Air Force is most interested in the Reaper – also known as the Predator B – given that it is the model that has been acquired by the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Holland. This will allow for the countries to share procedural knowledge or to act together in operations.
Spain already counts on mini-drones, such as the Raven, which weigh less than 15 kilos and have a range of 50 kilometers, and have been deployed in Afghanistan by Spanish forces.
The Defense Ministry has stated that it is only planning on using the unmanned aircraft with radar systems
However, Spain currently lacks operational or strategic drones, such as those that can fly above commercial airliner routes, weigh several tons and take off and land like conventional aircraft.
While the drones Spain is planning on buying can be equipped with bombs and missiles, the Defense Ministry has stated that it is only planning on using them with radar systems and other surveillance equipment.