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Jack Richardson

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has signed a Foreign Military Sales contract with the U.S. Air Force for the Belgian Ministry of Defence to acquire the MQ-9B SkyGuardian® Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS). The contract covers the design, development, integration and production of the RPAS with its EO/IR video and SAR/GMTI surveillance payloads, as well as Certifiable Ground Control Stations (CGCS), Portable Pre-Flight/Post-Flight Equipment (P3E), ground support equipment and spares with first delivery expected in 2023.

SkyGuardian has garnered significant interest from customers throughout the world. The UK Ministry of Defence selected SkyGuardian for its MQ-9B Protector programme, and recently concluded the production contract for deliveries to the Royal Air Force (where it will be termed PROTECTOR RG Mk1 in service). SkyGuardian has also been selected by the Australian Defence Force under Project Air 7003.

The MQ-9B is GA-ASI’s most advanced RPAS, having named its MQ-9B aircraft SkyGuardian, and the maritime surveillance variant SeaGuardian®, which is fitted with a multimode 360-degree field-of-regard Maritime Patrol Radar and optional sonobuoy capability. MQ-9B development began in 2014 as a company-funded programme to deliver an RPAS to meet NATO’s stringent airworthiness type-certification standard (STANAG 4671). STANAG certification will enable SkyGuardian to operate in civil airspace and better perform border patrol, fire detection and firefighting support, maritime patrol, and resource monitoring missions. MQ-9B is provisioned for the GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid System (DAAS) to enhance safety of operations in civil and military airspace. The MQ-9B is built for all-weather performance with lightning protection, a damage tolerant airframe, and a de-icing system.

In addition, the UK and Belgium have signed a Statement of Intent to explore collaboration on the operation of the aircraft.