The first of four MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial systems General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) is building for the Royal Netherlands Air Force is set to emerge from the company’s California facility in a ceremony on July 7.
The unveiling of the first Reaper, which will be flown by the dedicated 306 Squadron from Leeuwarden Air Base, comes a year later than planned. According to latest estimates, the Reaper squadron is expected to operate all four UAS from the Leeuwarden base by the fourth quarter of 2021.
First Dutch MQ-9 pilots and MQ-9 sensor operators already completed training on the system at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico in 2019.
Earlier this year, the Royal Netherlands Air Force received Satcom earth terminal subsystems (SETSS), which will be essential for the operation of the MQ-9 Reaper. The SETSS, which arrived at the Antwerp port on January 13, 2021, link ground control stations with UAS during ground taxi, and launch and recovery for training operation.
Netherlands ordered four MQ-9 Reaper Block 5 UAS from the US in July 2018. The US State Department previously approved the sale in 2015, in a deal that had an estimated value of $339 million. The signed deal also included four ground stations.
The multi-mission MQ-9 Reaper medium altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAS has up to 26 hours of flight endurance and carries HD-video sensors (optical and IR), ground-imaging/MTI/maritime radar, and other surveillance sensors. The aircraft features an extensive payload capacity (386 kg internally, 1361 kg externally), with a maximum altitude of 45,000 feet/13,700 meters.