Italy was amongst the first countries to acquire unarmed Predator drones from the United States. This initial purchase of Predator drones in 2001 was followed by an additional six MQ-9 Reapers in 2006, which have been deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

Six years later, in May 2012, the United States Administration agreed to arm six Reapers and six Predators of the Italian air force with Hellfire missiles and satellite-guided bombs. However, it was not until November 2015 that Italy was officially granted approval by the US government and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. This means that both Italy and the UK are now partners with the US in using American made UACV’s.

According to Chris Cole, founder of drone monitoring website Drone Wars UK, it remains unclear whether the Italian drone fleet is already armed. Another important fact is that since February 2016, US drones are allowed to take off from Italian air base Sigonella, located on Sicily, to mount operations against ISIS in Libya.

So far, there has been little opposition from civil society against the involvement of Italy in US drone operations. Furthermore, Italy has contributed to the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system and is part of the European ‘drone users club’ to compete against the Israeli- and US- made UAVs.

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