U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drones Deploy to Estonia For The First Time In History

A remotely piloted MQ-9 Reaper taxis toward the runway at Miroslawiec Air Base, Poland, March 1, 2019. In the top right corner the patch of the Squadron (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Preston Cherry, The Aviationist)

The MQ-9s belong to the 52nd Expeditionary Operations Group Detachment 2 from Miroslawiec AB, in Poland.

MQ-9 Reapers from 52 EOG Detachment 2, based at Miroslawiec AB, in Poland deployed to Amari Air Base on Jun. 14, 2020, marking the very first time the UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) deployed to Estonia.

The purpose of the deployment is to provide ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) missions in the Baltic region: a region where several intelligence gathering assets operate every day.

“We are specifically focusing on air, maritime, and land domain,” said Brig. Gen. Jason Hinds, Deputy Director of Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration and the United States Air Forces in Europe and United States Air Forces Africa Air Operations Center Director. “We are gathering requirements from the U.S. European Command and our NATO allies, and then we are going to execute those taskings in coordination with the Estonian Air Force.”

While the number of aircraft deployed to Estonia has not been unveiled, according to a Spangdahlem Air Base public release, one of the aircraft was transported via cargo truck from Miroslawiec AB, where it was then offloaded and assembled in a hangar at Amari with the help of the Estonian Air Force. At least two UAVs appear in the images released by the U.S. Air Force.

The MQ-9 assigned to the 52nd EOG are civilian registered and the airframes registered N428HK and N429HK have been noted in the past.

“We are the first American contingent to operate out of their hangar and operations building,” said Lt. Col. Clayton Sanders, 52 Operations Group Detachment 2 commander. “The Estonians have done everything they can to help us work out the kinks to operate out of both buildings, and that is where we have seen the increase in partnership.”

The 52nd EOG Det. 2 is a geographically separated unit assigned to the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem AB (Germany) whose mission is to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and has been operating from the Polish base since May 2018. A ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of new facilities at the detachment and the 52nd EOG’s  full operational capability was held on Mar. 1, 2019.

The unit is assigned unarmed Block 5 Reapers flown and maintained by contractors, with the Air Force providing communications, intelligence analysis and force protection.

About one year ago, the MQ-9 drones of the Det. 2 relocated to Romania for a certain period because of construction works in Miroslawiec AB, Poland.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.