General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has signed a Foreign Military Sales contract with the US Air Force for the Belgian Ministry of Defence to acquire the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), previously known as Certifiable PREDATOR B, the company reported on 20 August.
The contract covers 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, portable pre/post-flight equipment, ground support equipment and spares. Initial delivery is expected in 2023, with completion in early 2024. MON understands the contract, which calls for four air vehicles, two ground control stations and appropriate spares and support, is valued at $188.9 million (€159 million).
“Through our Belgian R&D seed-funding initiative, we are connected with many Belgian companies interested in further improving the capabilities of the SkyGuardian system,” commented Linden Blue, GA-ASI CEO.
SkyGuardian has generated significant international interest. The UK MoD selected the platform for its PROTECTOR programme and recently concluded a production contract for deliveries to the RAF. It was also selected by the Australian Defence Force under Project Air 7003.
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, are the company’s most advanced RPAS. 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.
The 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 aircraft is built for all-weather performance with lightning protection, a damage tolerant airframe, and a de-icing system.