General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) has completed the first MQ-9A Block 5 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and ground control station (GCS) for the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF). GA-ASI and RNLAF commemorated the occasion with a special roll-out ceremony at GA-ASI's corporate headquarters in Poway, California, and the event was simulcast to the Netherlands.
The aircraft will begin its acceptance testing later this year at GA-ASI's Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility near Palmdale, Calif., and the aircraft will be delivered to the Netherlands before the end of 2021. The total Foreign Military Sales agreement includes four MQ-9A Block 5 aircraft and four mobile GCS, along with associated support equipment.
"We are proud to begin this new relationship with the Royal Netherlands Air Force," said Linden Blue, GA-ASI CEO. "With millions of hours of proven performance under its wings, the MQ-9 is ideally suited to support their nation's ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] needs. The Netherlands now joins the United Kingdom, Italy, France, and Spain as NATO countries operating our advanced RPAs, with Belgium coming online in the next few years."
The MQ-9A Block 5 has endurance of more than 27 hours, speeds of 240kts, and can operate up to 50,000ft. It has a 3,850 lb (1,746kg) payload capacity that includes 3,000 lb (1,361kg) of external stores. It provides a long-endurance, persistent surveillance capability with full-motion video and synthetic aperture radar/moving target indicator/maritime radar. The MQ-9A Block 5 is equipped with a fault-tolerant flight control system and triple redundant avionics system architecture. It is engineered to meet and exceed manned aircraft reliability standards.