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The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) has doubled the number of MQ-9A Reaper uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) it is procuring from four to eight, manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) announced on 21 August 2023.

The first four MQ-9A Block 5 Reapers and associated ground control stations were delivered to the RNLAF in 2022.

“We are doubling the number of MQ-9A Reapers so we can increase our maritime and overland intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance (ISR) capacity,” Lieutenant Colonel Jan Ruedisueli, commander of the RNLAF’s 306 squadron that operate the new MQ-9As, was quoted as saying by GA-ASI. “The MQ-9As will receive external pods for electronic intelligence, a communications relay, a maritime radar, and also be armed in the future.”

The RNLAF has doubled its Reaper order to increase its maritime and overland ISR capabilities, but will also arm the UAV in future. (Photo: GA-ASI)

The delivery of the MQ-9As, their ground control stations, and support equipment is part of a US Foreign Military Sale to the RNLAF.

“We’re thrilled that the first set of Dutch Reapers have made such a positive impact on the RNLAF,” said GA-ASI President David R Alexander. “With this new set of capabilities, the Netherlands will have the most capable set of MQ-9 Block 5 aircraft in the world. They have customised the Dutch MQ-9As to meet the Netherlands’ expanding mission set.”

The MQ-9A Block 5 has an endurance of up to 27 hours, is capable of speeds up to 240 KTAS and can operate up to an altitude of 40,000 ft. It has a 3,850 lb (1,746 kg) payload capacity that includes 3,000 lb (1,361 kg) of external stores.

Providing a long-endurance, persistent surveillance capability with full-motion video and synthetic aperture radar/moving target indicator/maritime radar, the MQ-9A Block 5 is equipped with a fault-tolerant flight control system and triple-redundant avionics system architecture.

GA-ASI says the MQ-9A “is engineered to meet and exceed manned aircraft reliability standards”.

Peter Felstead