WASHINGTON – For the first time, the US Department of State Department has cleared the sale of MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles to Spain's military.

The sale, which covers four MQ-9 Block 5 aircraft and associated equipment, parts and logistical support, would be worth an estimated cost of $243 million.

Spain is looking to join the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the US as countries operating the MQ-9, which is designed and produced by General Atomics.

News of the sale approval clearing comes as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is on a European swing that included a stop in Spain and a visit with the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force for Crisis Response based in Morón de la Frontera in Seville.

"The Spanish Air Force intends to use the MQ-9s for homeland security, peacekeeping, peace enforcement, counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism operations," according to the solicit posted on the Defense Security Cooperation Agency's website. "The proposed sale improves Spain's ability to meet current and future threats by providing improved ISR coverage that promotes increased battlefield situational awareness, anticipates enemy intent, augments combat search and rescue, and provides ground troop support."

Spain intends to use the drones purely for ISR purposes, and so the vehicles crafts system will not be armed.

In addition to the systems themselves, the sale would include 20 Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Guidance United (three per aircraft plus eight spares); two Mobile Ground Control Stations; five multi-Spectral Targeting Systems (one per aircraft plus one spare); and five Synthetic Aperture Radar, Lynx AN/APY-8 (also one per aircraft plus a spare).

Although the notice that the State Department has cleared the sale was posted on the DSCA's website, that does not mean the sale has been completed. Congress must still OK it, and then a contract must be drawn up and finalized.

Email: amehta@defensenews.com

Twitter: @AaronMehta

Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.

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