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Taiwan is to buy four MQ-9B UAVs and related equipment for an estimated cost of US$600m. The principal contractor for the armed aircraft will be U.S-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI). The deal also includes: two Fixed Ground Control Stations, two Mobile Ground Control Stations and 14 Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigations Systems (EGI) with Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) (12 installed, two spares).

The GA-ASI designed MQ-9B SkyGuardian is the next generation of the multi-mission PREDATOR B fleet currently operated by the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, France, and soon Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium. The MQ-9B adds several key enhancements to the proven MQ-9 series allowing for better performance, lower operating and sustainment costs and access to all classes of airspace.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) has also acquired SkyGuardian as part of its PROTECTOR RG Mk1 programme with Australia also selecting it under Project AIR 7003. The proposed sale to Taiwan will help improve the security of that country and assist in maintaining political stability, military balance, economic and progress in the region, a spokesman of the U.S. State Department said.

“This proposed sale will improve the recipient’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing timely Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), target acquisition, and counter-land, counter-sea, and anti-submarine strike capabilities for its security and defence.  The capability is a deterrent to regional threats and will strengthen the recipient’s self-defence,” he added.

J C Menon