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Netherlands to arm Reaper UAVs

One of four Reaper UAVs so far delivered to the Netherlands. These will be modified to carry weapons, while a further six Reapers to be delivered in 2026 will have that capability already. (Dutch MoD)

The Netherlands is to arm its General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc MQ-9A Reaper medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), having originally acquired them as unarmed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets only.

The Dutch Minister of Defence, Christophe van der Maat, made the announcement on 23 May, saying the procurement of weapons for the Reaper had been outlined in the Defence Memorandum 2022 as a means of increasing flexibility and reducing reaction time during a deployment of ground forces.

“When the Ministry of Defence started the project for the MQ-9 Reaper in 2011, there was no need to arm the aircraft,” the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said. “However, the threat picture has changed significantly since then. The aircraft must now be able to protect the safety of its own troops.”

The MoD aims to have the first ammunition in stock and ready for an initial weapons capability by 2025. Full operating capability is scheduled for 2028.

As noted in the announcement, while the four Reapers so far received by the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) need to be upgraded to carry GBU-12 precision-guided bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-surface missiles, the six that are scheduled to be delivered in 2026 do not.

The weapons will be acquired from the United States via the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme and are estimated to cost between EUR100 million (USD108 million) and EUR250 million (USD270 million).

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