The Netherlands has announced that three General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles will be stationed in Romania to fortify the defence of NATO’s eastern flank.
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The unarmed drone aircraft will be used to gather intelligence along the eastern border of the North Atlanta Treaty Organization’s territory, according to information submitted to the Dutch House of Representatives by the Netherlands’ Minister of Defence, Kajsa Ollongren, on 11 October.
Significantly, this 6-to-12-month positioning marks the first time that the Netherlands has deployed the remotely-piloted unmanned reconnaissance aircraft outside its own territory.
“The MQ-9s will assist in air shielding operations. The purposes of these operations include monitoring the situation at the border of alliance territory,” according to public statements made by the Dutch Ministry of Defence on 11 October.
“The unmanned aircraft will use their sensors to gather data and information in order to build and maintain an accurate picture of the situation. This will prevent possible misunderstandings and any escalations that could ensue.
“While NATO will specify the intelligence that it needs, the Netherlands will determine how it is gathered. The processing of intelligence will also remain a national responsibility.
“In addition to protecting NATO territory, Defence will gain experience in allied operations as a result of the MQ-9 deployment, which will last for at least six months and 12 months at most.”
As part of the deployment, more than 135 Dutch Defence employees will be involved in the operation, with the majority stationed at Leeuwarden Air Base in the Netherlands to operate the aircraft and process intelligence gathered, while 40 service members will man the MQ-9 aircraft at Romanian Air Force 71st Air Base, near Campia Turzii in Romania.
Dutch Army engineers will also build facilities for the air force at the Romanian air base.
Earlier this year, the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) reportedly doubled its order of customised MQ-9A remotely piloted aircraft from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The RNLAF took its total order from four to eight aircraft after the first four MQ-9A Block 5 Reapers and associated ground control stations were delivered in 2022.
In addition, the Netherlands is still in negotiations to loan F-16 fighter jets to Romania for training purposes and organise a F-16 flight training centre in the country after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced in August this year that the Netherlands will supply F-16s to Ukraine.