PREDATOR-B drones will be patrolling the Strait of Gibraltar this year after Spain signed a huge €216 million deal with the US.
Four fully equipped MQ-9 Reaper drones will soon be arriving to their new base in Talavera la Real in Badajoz – and they already have a mission.
The unmanned aircraft are to carry out surveillance in the Gulf of Cadiz and Gibraltar Strait to tackle illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
It comes as the Guardia Civil has struggled to tackle the surging drug trafficking epidemic which has seen outbursts of violence along the Costas over the past two years.
And according to OKDIARIO, citing military sources, this summer is set to see much more drug and people smuggling than last year.
Spain’s Air Force have been attending training sessions on how to use the military aircraft for the past few years and are expected to have the new fleet in the air in the latter half of 2019.
The deal with the US includes a state-of-the-art camera system for surveillance and a powerful long-range radar.
The drones have the capacity to be armed with missiles but Spain’s will not be carrying any.
Weighing in at two tonnes, the wings span 20 metres and allow the aircraft to fly up to speeds of 400km/hr for around 14 hours, meaning they can cover distances of around 2,000km.
The Predators will work on surveillance missions alongside the ‘P.3 Orion’ maritime patrol aircraft that Spain’s Armed Forces have been using in the Strait for years.
The ‘P.3 Orion’ are able to fly for more than twelve uninterrupted hours and have a network of sensors capable of locating a small boat from kilometers away, even at night or in extreme weather conditions.