To bolster its intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance capabilities, the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) has decided to double its procurement of MQ-9A remotely piloted aircraft, elevating the total order from four to eight aircraft.

Developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), the MQ-9A Block 5 Reaper has proven its capabilities to the RNLAF officials since its first delivery to the RNLAF in 2022. This expansion aims to further enhance the Netherlands’ ability to conduct maritime and overland missions, due to its inclusion of advanced features and customised capabilities.

These aircraft have already demonstrated their efficiency and effectiveness in fulfilling ISR missions.

Versatile MQ-9A Reapers

Lieutenant-Colonel Jan Ruedisueli, commander of the RNLAF’s 306 squadrons responsible for operating the MQ-9A Reapers, emphasised the aircraft’s versatility in meeting evolving mission requirements.

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He stated, “We are doubling the number of MQ-9A Reapers so we can increase our maritime and overland intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance (ISR) capacity. The MQ-9As will receive external pods for electronic intelligence, a communications relay, a maritime radar, and also be armed in the future.”

The forthcoming MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft will be equipped with various capabilities, including electronic intelligence pods, communications relays, maritime radar, and the potential for future armament. This multifaceted enhancement will further augment the Netherlands’ ISR capabilities.

The growing popularity of the MQ-9A Reaper

The procurement effort is part of a USAF foreign military sale to the RNLAF, cementing the strong partnership between the two nations and underlining the global recognition of the MQ-9A’s performance and potential.

Some examples of European countries to have procured the MQ-9A Reaper include Spain in a foreign military sale from the US in 2021 and Poland in a $70.6m (291.5m zlotys) deal the year after.

 Like the Royal Netherlands Air Force, the US Marine Corps received the delivery of two of the uncrewed aircraft systems and then went on to procure eight more, showing the popularity of the MQ-9A Reaper Block 5 drones.

GA-ASI President David R. Alexander expressed his enthusiasm for the RNLAF’s decision, saying, “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.”

Reliability and architecture

The MQ-9A Block 5 Reaper’s specifications include an endurance of up to 27 hours, up to 240 KTAS speeds, and the ability to operate at altitudes of up to 40,000 feet. With a payload capacity of 3,850 pounds (1,746 kilograms), including 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of external stores, the MQ-9A ensures long-endurance, persistent surveillance capabilities, incorporating full-motion video and synthetic aperture radar/moving target indicator/maritime radar.

The aircraft also is helped by its fault-tolerant flight control system and triple redundant avionics system architecture, designed to meet and surpass manned aircraft reliability standards.

As the Royal Netherlands Air Force doubles its MQ-9A procurement, the RNLAF is poised to elevate its intelligence and surveillance on maritime and overland fronts, contributing to enhanced security and situational awareness.