On June 12, 2023, the Italian Air Force began training its first cohort of pilots and sensor operators to fly its new MQ-9A Block 5 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) at the Flight Test & Training Center (FTTC) in Grand Forks, N.D., which is owned and operated by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI). When GA-ASI delivers the first MQ-9A Block 5 to the Italian Air Force, it will be the first of several Block 5 deliveries being made to the Italian Air Force as they expand their fleet.
The training began with the Instructor Difference Training (IDT) for current Italian instructors from the 32 STORMO Squadron based at Amendola Air Base. A total of 31 aircrew members (14 pilots and 17 sensor operators) from different Italian squadrons will be trained on MQ-9 Block 1 to Block 5 Transition Courses (TX-4), which includes Basic Qualification Courses (TX-1) for the current Block 1 aircrew, such as Mission Control Elements (MCE), and Automated Checklists (ACL).
The scope of the training is focused on skills required to operate the Block 5 air vehicle and its equipment, including the Multi-Spectral Targeting System (MTS), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Mission Intelligence Station (MIS), and System for Tasking and Real-Time Exploitation (STARE). Training involves building solid foundations for both normal and emergency operations in Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) systems, instrument flying, and Automatic Takeoff and Landing Capability (ATLC).
The training includes live flight of the air vehicle.
“Our customers have come to rely on the Flight Test & Training Center,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. “The FTTC is GA-ASI’s premiere training facility, because of its high quality of instruction, excellent training devices and the availability of airspace to operate in.”