The US Air Force (USAF) has begun flying its General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Poland for the first time.
The USAF in Europe (USAFE) announced on 29 May that it had begun operating the medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAV out of Miroslawiec Air Base in northwestern Poland “as a visible expression of US efforts to enhance regional stability”.
“This mission, starting in May, has been fully co-ordinated with the Polish government. It is designed to promote stability and security within the region and to strengthen relationships with NATO allies and other European partners,” the USAFE said in a statement.
The USAFE did not reveal how many Reapers have been stationed at Miroslawiec or which unit(s) would be operating them. It also did not say if the aircraft are armed or if they are configured solely for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
Miroslawiec is the Polish Air Force’s 12th UAV base and will be home to a number of unmanned aircraft types that the service plans to procure.
The USAF currently fields approximately 200 Reapers, with the type having now replaced the MQ-1 Reaper in the service’s inventory. Powered by a single Honeywell TPE331-10GD turboprop engine, the Reaper has a maximum take-off weight of 4,760 kg; a payload of 1,701 kg; a cruise speed of 200 kt; a range of 1,000 n miles; a service ceiling of 50,000 ft; and an endurance of 27 hours. It carries an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor turret and can be armed with a combination of AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles; and/or GBU-12 Paveway II and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
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