The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) is due to receive four MQ-9A Block 5 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from US manufacturer General Atomics next month, providing a significant uptick in capability for the service.
Platform-specific infrastructure, including four ground control stations (GCS), will be constructed in both the Caribbean and the Netherlands to aid in the operation of the platform. Currently the aircraft are undergoing tests in the semi-autonomous Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao due to the favourable weather conditions and airspace capacity.
Ground stations for the operators and the Reaper aircraft will be split between Hato International airport in Curaçao and Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands.
The Reaper can already be deployed in the Caribbean to support civil authorities or for investigation and supervision. Part of this involves cooperation with the US, such as in counter-drug operations.
In 2015 the US State Department approved the Foreign Military Sale of four MQ-9 Reaper, and associated equipment, to the Netherlands for an estimated cost of $339m. Equipment listed at the time included four Block 30 mobile GCS, six Honeywell TPE331-10T Turboprop engines (four installed and two spares, and four General Atomics Lynx (exportable) synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator (SAR/GMTI) systems with maritime wide area search capability.
In addition, the proposed sale would also include eight Ku-band airborne communication systems, four KIV-77 Mode 4/5 identification friend or foe (IFF) transponders, and 14 Honeywell H-764 Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Guidance Units (EGI) with Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM).