The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress [link opens in PDF] Thursday of plans to sell the French military 16 General Atomics "Reaper" drones for a total cost of $1.5 billion. General Atomics is designated the primary contractor on this proposed sale.

Officially designated the MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft, the Reaper is an armed version of the more famous GA Predator drone. As configured by the U.S. Air Force, it is capable of carrying and firing Paveway II smart bombs, the new Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), and of course the Hellfire air-to-ground missile.

The configuration described in DSCA's notification to Congress does not appear to be configured for ground attack, however. According to the notice, the French drones would be powered by Honeywell (NASDAQ:HON) turboprop engines, be equipped with Raytheon's (NYSE:RTN) AN/DAS-1 Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems and AN/APX-119 (or KIV-119) international friend-or-foe transponders, and also ARC-210 radio systems from Rockwell Collins (NYSE:COL), but no mention is made of any munitions, or pylons for attaching them to the planes, being sold to France.

The DSCA justifies the sale by noting that: "France is one of the major political and economic powers in Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and an ally of the United States in the pursuit of peace and stability. It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist France to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability. This potential sale will enhance the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability of the French military in support of national, NATO, United Nation-mandated, and other coalition operations."

DSCA further notes the proposed sale "will not alter the basic military balance in the region," nor will there be any "adverse impact on U.S. defense readiness as a result of this proposed sale."

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