General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has handed over three MQ-9A Block 5 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) to the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF).

The delivery also includes two mobile ground control stations (GCS) from the company.

It is part of the US Air Force’s (USAF) foreign military sale (FMS) deal with the RNLAF.

Under the FMS, the RNLAF requested four MQ-9A aircraft, along with four GCSs and other support equipment from the USAF.

Following the agreement, GA-ASI produced the first aircraft and GCS for the RNLAF in 2021.

The new GCS and aircraft will be used for conducting long-range, long-endurance surveillance missions.

In Curacao, the RPA will support the RNLAF’s mission to protect the Netherlands’ national interests.  

RNLAF 306 squadron commander lieutenant colonel Boudewijn Roddenhof said: “We are excited to receive our aircraft and start operating with them straightaway.

“The MQ-9A Reaper will be very valuable for information-driven operations with the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Netherlands’ armed forces in general.

“We will operationally test and evaluate the system during our deployment to Curacao and expect it to be a valuable asset for the Commander of Netherlands Forces in the Caribbean.”

Separately, the Netherlands has deployed four F-35 fighter aircraft for Nato’s air policing mission in Bulgaria.

The four jets landed at Graf Ignatievo Air Base in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, on 6 April to join the Bulgarian Air Force for a period of two months, April and May.

The deployment comes in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to support Nato’s collective response to the crisis.

The RNLAF F-35 fighter jets will conduct air policing operations together with the Alliance’s vigilance activities in the eastern allies’ airspace.