MQ-9s in Romania Provide Constant ISR Over the Balkans

The Air Force is now flying MQ-9 Reaper operations from Romania, in a new mission that aims to provide 24/7 intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance coverage in the Balkans.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe based the Reapers at Romanian Air Base 71 in Campia Turzii earlier this year, with the first flights starting Feb. 1. USAFE boss Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, in an interview with Air Force Magazine, said the mission is “critically important” to give both the U.S. and European allies a steady view of the region.

“Over time, what this will facilitate is a much clearer view of operations that all the participants in that region have each and every day and gives us some incredible agility with respect to being able to offer different options up to [U.S. European Command] and facilitating [their] ability then to offer those options higher, should they be required to do that,” Harrigian said.

Previously, USAFE forward deployed MQ-9s from the 52nd Expeditionary Operations Group-Detachment 2 at Miroslawiec Air Base, Poland, to the Romanian base. Now the MQ-9 presence is permanent.

Harrigian said the new unit, the 25th Attack Group, is larger than the Poland-based unit, and unlike the 52nd EOG-Det. 2, which flies contractor-owned and contractor-operated MQ-9s, the Romania-based unit flies USAF-owned MQ-9s.

“It’s a bigger presence and a couple more airplanes. … It gives us greater persistence with respect to 24/7 coverage,” Harrigian said.

The group is under the command of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, which had previously specialized on missions in the Middle East.

“This is an exciting moment where we can showcase the value of the MQ-9 across the globe, not just in the Middle East,” said Col. Timothy Monroe, 25th ATKG commander, in a USAFE release. “We can demonstrate to our NATO allies and coalition partners that, when our Airmen are given the most difficult tasks, we rise to the occasion and bring the best of who we are to every mission that we accomplish.”