Jan. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force announced Tuesday that it has relocated about 90 service members and an unspecified number of MQ-9 Reaper drones to Romania's Campia Turzii Air Base.
"The forward and ready positioning of our MQ-9s at this key strategic location reassures our allies and partners, while also sending a message to our adversaries, that we can quickly respond to any emergent threat," Gen. Jeff Harrigian, the United States Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, said in a U.S. European Command press release.
Romania's government assisted in coordinating the deployment.
The MQ-9s will operate under the 31st Expeditionary Operations Group until the squadron is fully operational, and the units will be subordinate to the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base in Italy, the Air Force said.
In October, then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the 12,000 soldiers scheduled to be transferred from their stations in Germany would likely stay in northern Europe as a deterrent against Russian forces.
"You don't need to be Napoleon or MacArthur to look at the map and realize that the further east you are, the more reassurance you can provide for those allies and partners on the frontlines, whether it's -- in the northeast it's the Baltic states, Poland just due east of Germany, or in Bulgaria and Romania in the southeast along the Black Sea," Esper said at the time.
The National Defense Authorization Act for 2021 includes $130.5 million to renovate Campia Turzii, making it the biggest overseas military construction project under the Pentagon's European Deterrence Initiative.