France may buy US military drones: report

France is considering buying military drones from US company General Atomics to meet an urgent need for unmanned military surveillance aircraft, Le Point magazine reported on its website.
The option being discussed would see France buy four Predator B drones and two stations for receiving and processing images for a cost of up to $100 million (R743 million), the magazine reported. Each additional drone would cost $10 million (R74 million).
The talks come as two of the French air force’s fleet of three Harfang drones supplied by European defence group EADS and deployed in Afghanistan remain grounded awaiting repairs, Le Point said.
France turned to the US for a temporary solution as this would be quicker than waiting for a European alternative, the magazine reported.
The French defence ministry yesterday said it would not have a comment on the article before today.
Privately held General Atomics makes the Predator and Sky Warrior unmanned aircraft and dominates the drone market along with Northrop Grumman Corp, maker of the high-altitude Global Hawk.
The Predator sends surveillance video to troops in real time and can also be armed with Hellfire missiles.

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