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US approves sale of Reaper UAVs to Netherlands

The US State Department has approved a possible foreign military sale of four MQ-9A Block 5 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and related equipment to the Netherlands for an estimated cost of $611 million.

The sale will support the Dutch government’s intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions and enhance its ability to conduct air attack and counter maritime operations.

The MQ-9A Block 5 is the latest version of the Reaper UAV, manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. It features improved performance, reliability, and maintainability compared to previous models. It can carry a variety of weapons, sensors, and payloads, including laser-guided bombs, air-to-surface missiles, synthetic aperture radars, and multi-spectral targeting systems.

The proposed sale includes up to three MQ-9 Mobile Ground Control Stations, up to 30 Embedded GPS/Inertial Navigation Systems devices, up to eight AN/DAS-4 Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems, and up to 20 Lynx AN/APY-8 Synthetic Aperture radars. It also includes spare parts, engineering, logistics, and technical documentation support. The sale does not require the assignment of additional contractors or government representatives to the Netherlands.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the potential sale on June 19, 2023. The DSCA said that the sale will “contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a NATO ally that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in Northern Europe.”

The DSCA also said that the sale will “enhance interoperability between the US and Dutch forces and provide a common platform for future coalition operations.” 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 Netherlands plans to modify its existing MQ-9s into armed drones due to evolving security concerns. The first armed drone is expected to be deployed by 2025. The Netherlands is one of several NATO allies that have expressed interest in acquiring or operating Reaper UAVs, along with France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Romania, and Greece.

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