Aerial Warfare

GA-ASI Awarded Contract for MQ-9B SkyGuardian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for Taiwan

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GA-ASI Awarded Contract for MQ-9B SkyGuardian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for Taiwan

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Royal Canadian Air Force to Acquire the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft System
MQ-9B SkyGuardian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) has awarded a contract worth $250m for the supply of MQ-9B SkyGuardian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Taiwan. This contract provides four MQ-9B unmanned air vehicles, two certifiable ground control stations, spares, and support equipment. The location of performance is Poway, California, and the work is expected to be complete by Aug. 11, 2027. This award is the result of a sole source acquisition and involves foreign military sales to Taiwan. Foreign military sales funds in the amount of $120,400,030 are being obligated at the time of award. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity. Taiwan already bought four MQ-9Bs in 2023 under a $217 million contract.

The contract, expected to be completed by 11 August, 2027, marks a milestone in Taiwan’s efforts to bolster its defence capabilities amidst escalating regional geopolitical tensions. This procurement, facilitated through a sole-source acquisition, underscores the growing partnership between the United States and Taiwan, with a particular focus on enhancing the latter’s defence infrastructure. With China’s continued assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region, Taiwan has increasingly sought to modernise its military arsenal to deter potential threats and safeguard its sovereignty. The new SkyGuardians will enable the country to better monitor China, especially as the unmanned system can perform over-the-horizon missions for more than 40 hours straight. Taipei immediately sent its aircraft and prepared its air defense missiles in response to the unauthorized incursion.

MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS)
MQ-9B SkyGuardian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). (Photo by GA-ASI)

The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper is an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations, developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) primarily for the United States Air Force (USAF). The MQ-9 is a larger, heavier, more capable aircraft than the earlier General Atomics MQ-1 Predator and can be controlled by the same ground systems. The MQ-9 is the first hunter-killer UAV designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance. International demand for a MALE RPAS capable of being certified for operation within civilian airspace drove General Atomics to develop a version of the platform known by GA-ASI as MQ-9B SkyGuardian, previously called Certifiable Predator B, to make it compliant with European flight regulations to get more sales in European countries.

The MQ-9Bs performance changes include a 79 ft (24 m) wingspan that has winglets and enough fuel for a 40-hour endurance at 50,000 ft (15,000 m). Features include High Definition EO/IR Full Motion Video sensor, De/Anti-Icing System, TCAS, and Automatic Take-Off & Land. The system also includes a completely redesigned & modernized integrated ground control station with 4 crew stations. On 28 November 2019, the Australian Government announced the selection of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian as its preferred version of the Predator B for the RAAF’s Project AIR 7003 MALE armed remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) requirement.[229] The Australian Government cancelled the planned acquisition in March 2022. On 19 December 2023, the Canadian Government announced the purchase of eleven MQ-9B SkyGuardian aircraft to be operated by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

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