An MQ-9 Reaper on San Clemente Island in California on June 23. 2022.
US Air National Guard/Staff Sgt. Joseph Pagan
US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drones deployed to Greece during the final weeks of 2022.
Operating from Larissa air base, the drones will keep an eye NATO’s borders in southeastern Europe.
The deployment comes as NATO grapples with the war in Ukraine and with tensions between Turkey and Greece.
Late last year, the US deployed MQ-9 Reaper drones to Greece’s Larissa Air Base.
The deployment came amid Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine, which has raised tensions throughout Europe, but the drones also arrived in Greece as that country and Turkey, both of which are NATO allies, wage a war of words over their longstanding territorial and political rivalries.
Their dispute has raised a new challenge for the US and for its NATO allies, as their leaders try to maintain the alliance’s support for Ukraine and manage a new period of conflict with Russia.
Predator in the skies
US Air Force airmen do pre-flight checks on an MQ-9 at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam in May.
US Air Force/Airman 1st class Christa Anderson
For security reasons, the US Air Force did not disclosed how many Reapers were deployed to the base, but local media has reported eight drones are now operating there.
The Reaper, which can be piloted remotely or fly autonomously, has a maximum endurance of 27 hours and can reach altitudes of 50,000 feet. The drone has “a unique capability” to perform strike missions, gather information, and track “high value” targets, the US Air Force says, and it played a prominent role in the war in Afghanistan.
Larissa Air Base, located in central Greece near the Aegean Sea, “is a strategic location” and the base, which was recently upgraded to accommodate the Reapers, will allow the drones “to easily support both the eastern and southern flanks of NATO,” a spokesman for US Air Forces in Europe told Defense News. (Flight trackers have also reported a US-made RQ-4B Global Hawk landing at Larissa, suggesting the base can support even larger drones.)
The deployment was not in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the spokesman added, but their placement there “does support deterring and avoiding conflict with Russia.”
A US Air Force F-15C at Larissa Air Base in May 2021.
US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III
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Source:: Business Insider