General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has signed a Foreign Military Sales contract with the US Air Force for Belgian Ministry of Defence to acquire the MQ-9B SkyGuardian® Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS)
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. SkyGuardian was also selected by the Australian Defence Force under Project Air 7003.
The Belgian FMS contract announced by the company Aug 20 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. First delivery is expected in 2023.
“We look forward to providing our RPAS to meet Belgium’s mission requirements, while also supporting the NATO Alliance,” said Linden Blue, CEO of GA-ASI. “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.”
MQ-9B is GA-ASI’s most advanced RPAS. GA-ASI 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 program 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.
Meanwhile, as part of the second annual “Blue Magic Belgium” industry engagement event hosted by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI), 18 Belgium-based companies have been selected to present their ideas and cutting-edge capabilities to a panel of GA-ASI technical experts. The panel will evaluate the companies in a virtual interview setting and make decisions on which capabilities can support the development of MQ-9B SkyGuardian®, the GA-ASI Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) selected by the Belgian Defence Ministry.
The presentations will be held during the week of September 21st and unlike the first Blue Magic Belgium (BMB) industry outreach event in 2019, this year’s event will be held virtually due to travel and in-person meeting restrictions stemming from the coronavirus.
“We’re very excited to host our second Blue Magic Belgium event,” said GA-ASI’s Linden Blue “Our first BMB event was a great success as we identified four Belgian companies who are now part of our SkyGuardian development team. We look forward to the same success this year. We know that attracting new Belgian businesses means more jobs for Belgium and it helps GA-ASI produce the best RPA for Belgian Defence and all NATO countries,” he said in an Aug 26 statement.
As part of last year’s event, AeroSimulators Group (ASG), AIRobot, ALX Systems and Hexagon joined Team SkyGuardian, which already included these five Belgium companies: SABCA, Thales Belgium, ScioTeq, ST Engineering and DronePort. GA-ASI is working with these companies now to generate next-generation capabilities for their RPA. The companies participating in Blue Magic Belgium the week of September 21st will be Airobot , AKKA BENELUX, Altran Belgium, ALX Systems, Any-Shape, Cenaero, Feronyl, Hexagon Geospatial, IDRONECT, Lambda-X, ML2Grow, Moss Composites, Optrion, Oscars, ScioTeq, Siemens, VITO-Remote Sensing, and von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics. – shp/iz/mgm