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US Surveillance Drones Flying Over Czech Republic Set to 'Put Thousands at Risk'

© Northrop GrummanThe US Air Force plans to replace Lockheed Martin’s infamous U-2 spy plane with Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk.
The US Air Force plans to replace Lockheed Martin’s infamous U-2 spy plane with Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk. - Sputnik International
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US-made unmanned aerial vehicles operated by NATO will fly over the Czech Republic starting January 1, 2017. The Czech government approved this step in late October. Lt. Colonel Ivan Kratochvil told Sputnik that the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk drones will put thousands of lives at risk.

The Global Hawks, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, will reportedly have their surveillance systems switched off during the overflight. The United States has used the Global Hawks to monitor Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

"We are part of NATO. The bloc's drones are protecting our territory among other things," Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnický said, commenting on the issue. Lt. Colonel Ivan Kratochvil, who heads the "Retired Czech Soldiers Against War" movement, told Sputnik that Stropnický "often does not understand what he is talking about."

Kratochvil described drone overflights as "an exceptional matter" since they could affect security of civil transport. "The key issue with regard to drone overflights is that they could violate the regulations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)," he said.

"The deal that allows drones – regardless of who owns them – to use Czech airspace puts at risk thousands of people whom various airline companies transport over the Czech territory. This risk is not justified," he lamented. "It shows that the Czech government is absolutely incapable of ensuring security of its citizens."

Kratochvíl said that there could be only one reason for this deal: "to ensure that there is an opportunity to carry out combat operation" on the Czech territory.

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"This is why I am asking who the US Armed Forces want to fight in the Czech Republic? Against locals? If they want to fly solely to the Baltic region then the skies over the Baltic Sea would be a more suitable and secure space."

Earlier this year, NATO was reported to have purchased five new Global Hawks under a $1.7 billion deal with Northrop Grumman. Fifteen nations, including Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States, are said to be taking part in the project.

The Global Hawk is a high-altitude platform offering intelligence capabilities to support forces in military operations.

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