US approves sale of more MQ-9A Reaper drones to the Netherlands

US State Department approval has been granted for the possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of four General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9A Block 5 Reaper unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVs) and related equipment to the Netherlands for an estimated cost of $611m.

Confirmation that the State Department had approved this prospective FMS was announced by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) on June 16, after it had notified the US Congress of the possible sale that same day. As part of this deal, the Netherlands has requested to buy up to four MQ-9A Block 5 Reaper UCAVs, up to three MQ-9 Mobile Ground Control Systems and an unspecified number of Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engines.

In addition to the UCAVs, the Netherlands is seeking to acquire up to 30 Embedded Global Positioning Systems/Internal Navigation Systems (EGI) devices with Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Modules; 20 AN/APY-8 Lynx synthetic aperture radars (SARs) and eight AN/DAS-4 Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems. The proposed deal also includes an unspecified number of Selex Seaspray SARs; SeaVue Maritime Radars; M299 Hellfire Longbow missile launchers and AN/ARC-210 radios, along with the provision of spare parts, maintenance and munitions equipment and support, and technical/logistics support services.

The RNLAF's second MQ-9A Block 5 Reaper UCAV (serial M-002) taxis out for a test flight in January 2022. The Netherlands aims to acquire eight MQ-9A Block 5s in total.
The RNLAF's second MQ-9A Block 5 Reaper UCAV (serial M-002) taxis out for a test flight in January 2022. The Netherlands aims to acquire eight MQ-9A Block 5s in total. Dutch MOD

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) is already an established operator of the MQ-9A Block 5, with four aircraft having already been previously ordered. The DSCA announced that the US State Department had approved this initial sale of MQ-9As to the Netherlands on February 6, 2015, before a formal Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) was signed in July 2018 and a procurement contract was inked with GA-ASI on March 21, 2019. The RNLAF’s first MQ-9A Block 5 (serial M-001) was accepted into operational service on February 3, 2022, with the aircraft being operated the US Forward Operating Location in Hato, Curaçao. The Dutch Ministry of Defence (MOD) first announced its intention to double the RNLAF’s Reaper fleet in a Defence White Paper that was published in June 2022. Dutch MQ-9A operations are headquartered at Leeuwarden Air Base.

Commenting on the prospective sale in a media release (published on June 16), the DSCA said: “The proposed sale will improve the Netherlands’ capability to meet current and future threats. The MQ-9A aircraft will support intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions as well as air attack and counter maritime operation tasks. The Netherlands already has MQ-9A aircraft in its inventory and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.”

The principal contractor of this proposed sale will be GA-ASI, with work being carried out at its facility in Poway, California. There a no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential FMS.