Belgium's planned procurement of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian unmanned aircraft system (UAS) has taken a step forward after the US State Department announced on 26 March that it had approved the deal.
Announced by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the approval for the Foreign Military Sale covers four SkyGuardian medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and two fixed ground control stations (GCSs), as well as sensors, ancillary equipment, training, and a five-year support package.
As noted in the approval, Belgium plans to use the SkyGuardian for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) in support of national, NATO, United Nation-mandated, and other coalition operations. "The current fleet of Belgian Air Component aircraft have proven insufficient to support sustained and persistent ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] operations," the DSCA said. The country did not request weapons as part of its buy.
The estimated cost of the planned procurement is about USD600 million. With the granting of State Department approval, the deal must now be confirmed by Congress before being signed off.
Jane's has previously reported that Belgium is looking to procure two SkyGuardian UAS', and so this DSCA notification for four aircraft likely covers two additional options to be exercised at a later date. Deliveries are planned for 2022-24, with a full operational capability being reached in 2025.
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