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US Moves Reaper Drone Squadron From Poland to Romania, Buttressing NATO Intel in Black Sea

© Flickr / US Air ForceMQ-9 Reaper
MQ-9 Reaper - Sputnik International
A US Air Force squadron of MQ-9 Reaper drones has temporarily relocated to Romania. It’s the latest shifting of NATO intelligence equipment to the Black Sea region.

The 52nd Expeditionary Operations Group Detachment 2, part of US Air Forces Europe’s 52nd Fighter Wing, has shifted its base of operations temporarily 580 miles southeast, to Campia Turzii Air Base in Romania, while its home base at Miroslawiec, Poland, gets its runway replaced, USAFE announced on July 4.

The group flies General Atomics’ Reaper drone, a replacement for the ubiquitous Predator that sports improvements in nearly every field, from ordnance to speed and flight time, and has become the Air Force’s bread-and-butter UAV. This squadron, however, is assigned to the role of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) along NATO’s eastern border.

The squadron reached full operational capability in March, although the Pentagon has been flying drones out of Poland for over a year.

"I need … more ISR" in Eastern Europe, US Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO Allied Command Operations, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee in March. "[My final] concern is my intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capacity, given that increasing and growing threat of Russia.”

“This temporary relocation is conducted with the full cooperation of our NATO ally, Romania,” USAFE said, although it didn’t specify how long the relocation would last. “The US works closely with Romania and other NATO allies and partners to bolster collective defense capabilities and enhance regional security.”

At a joint press conference last month, Polish President Andrzej Duda and US President Donald Trump announced that an additional 1,000 US troops would be added to the 4,500-strong force regularly rotated through deployment in Poland, and that a second MQ-9 Reaper squadron would be deployed to the country as well as AEGIS Ashore missile systems.

The shift southward likely signals a new focusing of attention on the Black Sea region as well, although NATO has by no means removed its ISR capabilities further north, where an MQ-4 Global Hawk drone, like that shot down by Iran over the Strait of Hormuz last month, was spotted circling near Russia’s western border on July 3.

The French naval reconnaissance ship Dupuy de Lome was also spotted transiting the Turkish Straits and entering the Black Sea on July 4, Sputnik reported. The vessel sports vast monitoring capabilities, including two navigation radars, satellite communication systems stations, a radar warning and identification station and radio and electronic reconnaissance complexes. Not only can it track signals, it’s capable of intercepting them, too, including email messages and mobile phone conversations.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has repeatedly complained to the Pentagon about the spying missions flown along Russia’s western border, but to no avail.

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