USAFE: New Reaper Detachment in Poland Focuses on “Indications and Warnings” in the Baltics

USAF, Polish air force, and contracted employees attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Miroslawiec AB, Poland, on March 1, 2019. Air Force photo by SrA. Preston Cherry.

The new, fully operational USAF MQ-9 base in Poland will begin flying over the Baltics to give the US and NATO better early warning, as well as a better understanding of the potential battlespace, as the alliance pushes to further deter Russia, the head of US Air Forces in Europe said.

Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of USAFE and commander of Allied Air Command, told Air Force Magazine during an interview at AWS that the purpose of the new MQ-9 detachment is to provide better indications and warnings, something that all NATO countries have been asking for.

“With an MQ-9 asset in region, as you can well imagine distance that it flies and locale that it happens to be in, we should be able to improve our understanding of the battlespace in the vicinity of Poland plus the Baltics,” Wolters said. “That’s the whole purpose, to improve our indications and warnings so that if tasked we can respond quicker than we ever have in the past, and the MQ-9 addition will do exactly that.”

USAF and the Polish air force on March 1 held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new detachment at Miroslawiec AB, Poland. The 52nd Expeditionary Operations Group Detachment 2 will fly alongside the Polish air force’s 12th Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Base with unarmed MQ-9s. The base has a new maintenance shelter, secure processing centers, communications infrastructure, and dormitories, according to a USAFE release.

Wolters said this new base helps address NATO’s constant need of improved indications and warnings, along with command and control to improve the ability to “neutralize a potential adversary.”

“That’s something the nations ask from the US, and something the nations ask from all of the other countries.”

The Air Force, and broader US military, have been increasing the funding for the European Deterrence Initiative, which goes to military construction at bases across the continent and to improved readiness exercises.

The MQ-9s in Poland will begin flying in the “vicinity of the Baltics” and that’s an “improvement in readiness right there” by putting “more eyes on the potential battlespace,” Wolters said. He wouldn’t specifically say how many orbits the aircraft would fly, just that “more is better.”

The goal with an improved posture in the region is to be in a position where “nobody will ever consider violating the sovereign skies, lands, and seas of NATO countries in the region,” he said.