March 22 (UPI) — General Atomics Aeronautical Systems received a $123.2 million contract to build MQ-9 Reaper drones for the Netherlands, the Defense Department announced.
The company, headquartered in Poway, Calif., will construct four of the Block 5 remotely piloted MALE UAV, or medium altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle, aircraft, part of a $339 million request in 2015 by the Netherlands defense ministry.
The Department of Defense announced the contract on Thursday.
The purchase was approved by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the Defense Department’s agency for foreign arms sales, in 2015 but was delayed until a formal agreement was signed in July 2018.
The drones are largely used for intelligence missions, and can fly at altitudes over 42,000 feet.
The UAVs can also be deployed as attack aircraft. The U.S. Air Force announced in June 2017 that in its first combat mission, an MQ-9 Reaper dropped a munitions bomb and fired two Hellfire missiles in a 16-hour sortie against the Islamic State in the Middle East.
The drones purchased by the Netherlands, a NATO ally of the United States, will be assigned to the recently-reopened Leeuwarden Air Base.
The majority of the work will be performed at General Atomics’ facilities in Poway, with an expected completion date of Dec. 31, 2020. The Air Force Life Cycle Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, is the contracting agent.