The Greek government has approved a U.S. request to host military drones at an airbase in Larisa, central Greece, according to a Pentagon official quoted by Defense News.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said the MQ-9 Reaper drones are being temporarily stationed at Larisa while their usual base in Africa undergoes repairs.
According to Defense News this is the first time that American drones have been stationed in Greece.
“These aircraft are unarmed and are only used for reconnaissance. Due to operational security considerations, however, we do not release details on specific missions,” Pahon was quoted as saying.
Speaking also to Defense News, Auburn Davis, chief of media operations for USAF Air Forces Africa said the aircraft only fly through Greek airspace “on routes that have been approved by the Greece [sic] government and while operating in Greek airspace … in contact with Greek Air Traffic Control authorities at all times”.
Staff handling the take-off and landing of the Reapers will be stationed at Larisa, with operators in the continental U.S. handling normal flight operations via satellite — a common set-up for the MQ-9.
Defense News claims that although the mission of the MQ-9s stationed in Greece will be focused southward, the move has the potential to upset America’s NATO ally, Turkey.
The U.S. has long relied on Turkey’s Incirlik military base to launch operations in the region, but the relationship between Washington and Ankara has been strained ever since a 2016 coup attempt by members of the Turkish military, it says.