Radar and Weapons Upgrades for Netherlands Air Force MQ-9A Reapers

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) is modifying its fleet of MQ-9A Reapers, pictured here, with a series of radar, weapons and other upgrades. (Image: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.)

The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) is adding a series of modifications to its fleet of MQ-9A Reapers.

In a March 26 press release, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., the company that designs and manufactures the MQ-9A Reaper, confirmed that RNLAF is making upgrades to the drones. The upgrades include new maritime radars, a communications relay, extended range fuel tanks, electronic support measures (ESM), and weapons, according to GA-ASI.

GA-ASI will integrate the new payloads for the RNLAF, including a maritime radar currently operating in other areas of the world, ESM, weapons, and a communications relay that is purpose-built to connect all services of the Netherlands Ministry of Defence.

The upgrades for the RNLAF's MQ-9A Reapers comes several months after RNLAF confirmed an order for four new MQ-9A Block 5 Reapers and associated Ground Control Stations in August 2023. That will take the number of MQ-9A Reapers operated by RNLAF from four to eight, once those additional four are delivered. The first four MQ-9A Block 5 Reapers and associated Ground Control Stations were delivered to the RNLAF in 2022.

MQ-9A Block 5 can fly up to 27 hours nonstop, is capable of speeds up to 240 KTAS and can fly up to 40,000 feet. It has a 3,850-pound (1,746-kilogram) payload capacity that includes 3,000 pounds (1,361 kilograms) of external stores. It provides a long-endurance, persistent surveillance capability with full-motion video and synthetic aperture radar, moving target indicator and maritime radar, according to GA-ASI.

"The RNLAF is using the MQ-9A for an increasing set of NATO missions,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Jan Ruedisueli, commander of the RNLAF’s 306 Squadron. “With these upgrades, we will support NATO’s ISR and maritime surveillance missions throughout Europe.”