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The Polish Air Force has received the MQ-9A Reaper medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (MALE UAV) system it has leased from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI), the Polish Ministry of National Defence (MND) announced on 12 February 2023.

The contract for the lease of the Reaper, worth USD 70.6 M, was signed back in October 2022, as announced by GA-ASI at the time.

How many Reapers will be handed over to the Polish Air Force was not detailed in the statement. According to press reports, the value of an MQ-9A Reaper now costs about USD 40 M. Based on values recently published by the Wall Street Journal in relation to a Reaper delivery to Ukraine, where transfer and commissioning was reported as costing EUR 9.2 M while annual maintenance and repair was put at EUR 7.4 M, it could be assumed that only one UAV was handed over. However, the Polish MND refers to “UAVs” in the plural in its communications distributed via social media.

An MQ-9A Reaper bearing Polish Air Force markings. An unknown number of MQ-9As are now in Polish hands. (Photo: Polish MND)

Current users of the MQ-9A include the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Indian Navy, Italy and the Netherlands. The newer MQ-9B variant has been procured by Belgium and the United Kingdom. Poland had previously expressed interest in the maritime surveillance version of the MQ-9B, which was recently put into service by Japan.

Powered by a 900 hp Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop, the MQ-9A Reaper can stay airborne for more than 27 hours and reach a top speed of nearly 480 km/h, according to the manufacturer. Its service ceiling and range at a cruise speed of around 300 km/h are given by GA-ASI as 15,400 m and over 3000 km respectively.

The manufacturer puts MQ-9A’s payload capacity at 1,746 kg and states that it is capable of carrying multiple mission payloads, among which are: an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) device, a Lynx multi-mode radar, a multi-mode maritime surveillance radar, electronic support measures (ESM), and a laser designator. In addition, the MQ-9A can carry a weapon load in the form of missiles and guided bombs with a maximum weight of 1,361 kg.

The option to arm the MQ-9A Reaper appears to be of secondary importance to the Polish armed forces. According to the MND statement, the MALE UAV will be used mainly in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) role, monitoring Poland’s eastern border and beyond.

Kristóf Nagy