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Belgium launches MQ-9B Skyguardian acquisition process

General Atomics Aeronautical System (GA-ASI) has been notified that the Government of Belgium has approved Belgian Defense to begin negotiations with the U.S. Government to acquire the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), the US company said on November 19.

Belgium launches MQ 9B Skyguardian acquisition program 001 General Atomics' MQ-9B Skyguardian UAV
(Credit: GA-ASI)

We look forward to providing our unmanned aircraft systems to meet Belgium’s mission requirements, while also supporting the NATO Alliance,” said Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI. “We are also eager to work with our industrial partners in Belgium on a host of activities ranging from manufacturing to maintenance.”

The Belgian government reportedly agreed in October to negotiate with the United States for the purchase of two MALE drone systems.

The country's former Defense Ministry Steven Vandeput said: "MALE drones play an increasingly important role in operations, but at the European level, there is a shortage of this type of drones. With this purchase, the Belgian Defense is committed to the future while filling a capacity deficit at the European level. Using MALE drones and keeping them operational is a complex undertaking. One of the conditions of this purchase was that our country would be able to partner with another country."

Cooperation with a partner country guarantees economies of scale in terms of equipment, maintenance, training and operations. Since MALE drones will be mainly engaged in EU and NATO operations, a partnership will be sought with an EU or NATO member country. With these decisions, the government shows that it believes in a strong Belgian Defense and wishes to continue to invest in it. In the spirit of the Strategic Vision, it gives the department the means to properly carry out its missions in the short and long term.

MQ-9B is the latest generation of GA-ASI’s multi-mission Predator B fleet. GA-ASI named its baseline MQ-9B aircraft SkyGuardian and the maritime surveillance variant SeaGuardian. MQ-9B is the result of a five-year company-funded effort to deliver an unmanned aircraft system that can operate in non-segregated, civil airspace, which meets the stringent airworthiness type-certification requirements of NATO STANAG 4671. To highlight these capabilities in support of the celebration of the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force 100th anniversary (RAF100) in July, SkyGuardian became the first Medium-altitude, Long-endurance (MALE) UAS to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean. The system features >40 hour endurance, all-weather, short-field, self-deployment (through SATCOM controlled automatic take-off and landing), and “detect-and-avoid” capabilities.

SkyGuardian has also been selected by the Royal Air Force for its PROTECTOR RG Mk1 program.