Italy to join US, Britain in arming drones

Italy will become the third country to fly armed drones along with the US and Britain following a nod from the US state Department, Italian media reported.

IANS| Last Updated: Nov 06, 2015, 12:16 PM IST

Rome: Italy will become the third country to fly armed drones along with the US and Britain following a nod from the US state Department, Italian media reported.

The US government has approved the sale of technology which will be used to upgrade two Italian Air Force Reaper MQ-9A drones, allowing them to carry air-to-surface missiles, such as the Hellfire II or laser-guided bombs like the GBU-12, the report said on Thursday.

"This will contribute to US foreign policy and security, boosting the capability of a NATO ally which has been an integral member of every recent operation led by the alliance and the US," a State Department spokesman said, announcing the 15.6 million euro upgrade.

The US Congress now has 15 days to block the move -- something that is said to be unlikely.

However, the Italian air force pilots and technicians will need to receive training in the new weapons systems before these can be put into use, the report said.

The US government has sanctioned the weapons sale in order to ease the burden on its own armed forces in the Middle East, according to some observers.

Italy currently has 12 drones in service -- six Reaper MQ-9A drones and six Predator MQ-IC A+.

Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's government had requested US permission to arm Italian air force drones in 2008.