March 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force announced this week that a detachment of MQ-9 Reaper drones became fully operational in Poland on Mar. 1.
New facilities at Miroslawiece Air Base in Poland, where Air National Guardsmen, the Polish Air Force and private contractors operate the unmanned aircraft, were opened with a ceremony.
Although unarmed drones have been involved in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR] work there since May, March 1 marked the fully operational status of 52nd Expeditionary Operation Group Detachment 2.
The group is part of the 52nd Fighter Wing based at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany.
"I would like to express my gratitude to all of our U.S. friends for all you have done so far with the MQ-9 operation to provide for European security," said Col. Lukasz Andrzejewski, base commander at Miroslaviec. "We appreciate all the support, involvement, openness and kindness you give us every day."
The new facilities offer secure processing centers, a larger aircraft maintenance shelter and barracks for assigned personnel. Poland, with its strategic location, often hosts U.S. Army brigade combat team exercises, and is the site of NATO's joint Force Training Center.
The drones in Poland increase the availability of intelligence gathering on Russia's western front. U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday that additional ISR would be valuable in Europe.
"[My] concern is my intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capacity, given that increasing and growing threat of Russia," he said.