Belgium’s acquisition of four General Atomics unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has been brought forward, with the US foreign military sales (FMS) committee signing off on a US$188.9 million contract.
Announced late last week by the Department of Defense (DoD), four MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones will be delivered from California to the low-lying European nation for use in support of national, NATO, United Nations-mandated, and other coalition operations.
The delivery will be complemented by two ground control stations (GCS), plus spare parts and support equipment.
“Work will be performed in Poway, California, and is expected to be completed [by] 31 March 2024,” the DoD says.
News of the award has broken 17 months after the US State Department first approved the sale of the SkyGuardian, previously known as Certifiable Predator B, to Brussels.
While the Belgian armed forces do not plan on replacing their ageing fleet of Israel Aerospace Industries B-Hunter UAVs until 2023, it notes that the SkyGuardian will likely prove essential for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance operations in the future.
The SkyGuardian comes geared specifically towards operation within civil airspace – as opposed to the SeaGuardian, which is designed with maritime surveillance operations in mind.
In July 2018, the SkyGuardian demonstrated its capability as it became the first medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial system to achieve a non-stop transatlantic crossing.