As reported by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency on November 4, 2015, the State Department approved a possible sale of equipment to Italy under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Program for weaponization of MQ-9s Reaper “drones” and associated equipment, parts and logistical support for an estimated cost of $129.6 million. DSCA provided the required certification on November 3, 2015 and the proposed action is now subject to a 15-day Congressional notification/objection period. Italy had been seeking such approvals since 2012, and – if the sale ultimately moves forward – Italy will be the second country after the UK to have armed US drones. As we reported earlier this year, the US Government developed a new policy regarding UAS exports and issued a “Fact Sheet” for industry which delineates circumstances in which the US may approve sales of armed UAS, including approving only FMS sales, the need for end use assurances, etc.
The press release notes that Italy requested to arm its MQ-9 Reapers for three primary reasons: 1) to support and enhance burden sharing in NATO and coalition operations; 2) to increase operational flexibility; and 3) to increase the survivability of Italian deployed forces, which appears consistent with the Fact Sheet, particularly because the sale is being proposed on an FMS basis. The recent announcement regarding Italy represents the first time since the issuance of the Fact Sheet that the US Government has approved such a sale.