U.S. MQ-9 Loses Contact With Control Station In Poland, Makes Emergency Landing Near Base

File photo of a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Emerson Nuñez)

A U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone carried out an emergency landing in Poland after losing contact with its ground control station.

On Mar. 18, 2024, after 23.00 LT, a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone carried out an emergency landing in an uninhabited area near Mirosławiec, Poland.

According to the details released by the Polish General Command of the Armed Forces, the unmanned aircraft had launched from Mirosławiec airbase, in northwest Poland, and was performing a “scheduled quarterly training” inside the Polish airspace, when it lost contact with the base. In accordance with the standard procedures in case of loss of control, the aircraft carried out an emergency landing. It’s not clear whether the remotely piloted aircraft was damaged but the crash/landing site was secured by the Polish military police.

The U.S. MQ-9 was probably one of the civilian registered, unarmed Block 5 Reapers which are flown and maintained by contractors, with the Air Force providing communications, intelligence analysis and force protection as part of the 52nd Expeditionary Operations Group Detachment 2, a geographically separated unit assigned to the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem AB, Germany.

The mission of the Detachment is to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and has been operating from the Miroslawiec AB, Poland, since May 2018.

The airframes registered N428HK and N429HK are known to have been assigned to the 52nd Expeditionary Operations Group Det 2 in the past, as the MQ-9s relocated to Romania for a certain period (because of construction works in Miroslawiec AB, Poland), or deployed to Amari Air Base in Estonia, in 2020, to keep their SIGINT sensors pointed to Kaliningrad.

The reason for the loss of control of the MQ-9 is unknown at this time, although there are chances it was due to jamming, that has been particularly strong in the region lately. A few days ago, an RAF Dassault 900LX business jet transporting the U.K. defense secretary, Grant Shapps, flying near Kaliningrad oblast, in the Baltic, experienced GPS jamming. While it’s not clear whether the British jet was target by an EW (Electronic Warfare) attack or it just transitioned through an area of GPS jamming,

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.