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The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) is working with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) to upgrade its growing fleet of MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), GA-ASI announced on 26 March 2024.

After receiving four MQ-9A Block 5 Reapers in 2022, the RNLAF ordered another four in August 2023 and is now making upgrades to its Reaper fleet to include capabilities such as maritime radars, a communications relay purpose built to connect all Dutch armed services, extended-range fuel tanks, electronic support measures (ESM) and weapons. The upgrades, integrated by GA-ASI, will take place incrementally over the next three years.

“The RNLAF is using the MQ-9A for an increasing set of NATO missions,” Lieutenant Colonel Jan Ruedisueli, commander of the RNLAF’s 306 Squadron, was quoted as saying in a GA-ASI press release. “With these upgrades, we will support NATO’s ISR and maritime surveillance missions throughout Europe.”

“We’re excited to continue upgrading and increasing the mission capabilities of the RNLAF’s fleet of Reapers,” stated Jaime Walters, vice president of International Strategic Development at GA-ASI. “One of the key aspects of our aircraft is the modularity of our platforms, allowing them to rapidly meet the full spectrum of customer requirements.”

The MQ-9A Block 5 has a 1,746 kg payload capacity that includes 1,361 kg of external stores. It provides a long-endurance surveillance capability with full-motion video, synthetic aperture radar/moving target indicator/maritime radar, and ESM.

Engineered to meet and exceed manned aircraft reliability standards, the MQ-9A Block 5 is equipped with a fault-tolerant flight control system and a triple-redundant avionics system architecture.

Having doubled its initial MQ-9A order from four to eight aircraft, the RNLAF is now upgrading those UAVs with new capabilities. (Image: GA-ASI)