Gallery: Ämari temporary home to to US drones
Two United States General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drones are being temporarily housed at Ämari Air Base.
This is the first time the drones, which are unmanned and ground-operated, have flown from Estonia, though they have been used in the Baltic States' airspace before. Since joining NATO in 2004, the alliance's air policing duties in the region work on a rotational basis.
While a ground-based operator for the drone will be based in Estonia, the control center remains in Miroslawiec in northeastern Poland.
"We are conducting reconnaissance and surveillance flights for the U.S. European Command. This applies to airspace, sea and land," said Brig. Gen. Jason Hinds, deputy chief of the U.S. European and African Air Force Operations Division, speaking to ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera".
"We fly over all three Baltic countries a couple of times a week. Now that we are here, we can start flying every day," said drone operator Lt. Col. Omar Rashid, adding that the two drones housed at Ämari have a range which has enabled them to fly from Poland to Georgia and back (a round-trip of around 6,000 km -ed.) and that there are plans in place to conduct flights similar in length from Ämari.
The move is temporary, but comes at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump is withdrawing troops for Germany, citing a lack of requisite commitment to the alliance from the latter. Trump has approved removing 9,500 personnel from Germany, leaving 25,000.
Some of these personnel and their families will be relocated to neighboring Poland, rather than returning to the U.S. or redeployed further afield; exact numbers have not been given.
The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper is a hunter-killer drone, designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance, which has been used in Iraq and Aghanistan, among other theaters or regions. Other international militaries using it include Britain's RAF. It also has non-military uses such as in surveillance of forest fires.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte