During a ceremony at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI’s) production facility in Poway, California, on July 7; the first MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) – serial M-001 – was formally unveiled.
Attendees present at the roll-out included the Director of the Defense Materiel Organization, Vice Adm Arie Jan de Waard and the commander of the RNLAF, Lt Gen Dennis Luyt, along with Linden Blue, the CEO of GA-ASI. The UAV is the first of four Block 5 Reapers to have been ordered by the RNLAF. A US$123.3m Foreign Military Sales contract for the four air vehicles, four mobile ground stations, spares and support equipment was awarded to GA-ASI on March 21, 2019.
Commenting on the roll-out of the first MQ-9A for the Netherlands, Blue said: “We are proud to begin this new relationship with the [RNLAF]. With millions of hours of proven performance under its wings, the MQ-9 is ideally suited to support their nation’s [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR)] needs. The Netherlands now joins the [UK], Italy, France and Spain as NATO countries operation our advanced [remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs)], with Belgium coming online in the next few years.”
In Dutch service, the RNLAF’s Reaper fleet will be assigned to No 306 Squadron at Leeuwarden Air Base. Following delivery, the MQ-9A will initially be used for test and evaluation purposes by the unit. It is expected that the type will be fully operational by mid-2023. The company states that first example (serial M-001) will undergo acceptance testing at GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility near Palmdale, California, early next year before it is officially handed over to the RNLAF.