Netherlands Expands MQ-9 Reaper Drone Fleet and Arms Them

The Netherlands is increasing its MQ-9 Reaper drone fleet by four and arming them with guided bombs and missiles. This decision comes over a decade after the initial purchase process started. The move is in response to changing threat landscapes, with the drones now being equipped to protect their own troops.

Initially, the Netherlands bought four unarmed MQ-9A Reaper Block 5 drones for intelligence-gathering and surveillance purposes in 2018. These will be upgraded to carry GBU-12 laser-guided bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-surface missiles, similar to those used by the Royal Netherlands Air Force’s AH-64 helicopters.

The weapons will be procured through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, costing between $108 million and $270 million, with the aim of initial deployment readiness by 2025 and full deployment by 2028.

With this expansion, the Netherlands will have the world’s most capable set of Block 5 drones, allowing for support of international missions from multiple bases. Enhancements will include maritime surveillance radar and electronic support measures pods, improving sensor capacity.

These drones will operate from Leeuwarden Air Base and be flown by the 306 Squadron, with support from the Royal Netherlands Navy for specific naval operations. While not currently certified for civil airspace use, efforts are underway to make this possible.

The move follows a trend in Europe of nations arming their drones in response to evolving threats and changing defense policies. Countries like Germany, Greece, Italy, and France are all pursuing armed drone capabilities. However, some, like Belgium, remain opposed to arming their drone fleets due to ethical concerns. 🌐🛩️🚀 #Netherlands #MQ9Reaper #Drones #Defense

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