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Australia MQ-9B UAVs to achieve IOC by mid-2020s

Australia's MQ-9B SkyGuardians, configured for maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, are planned to achieve initial operating capability by the middle of this decade. (GA-ASI)

Australia's MQ-9B SkyGuardian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are set to achieve initial operating capability (IOC) by the middle of this decade.

The announcement was made by an Australia Department of Defence (DoD) spokesperson who told Janes that the “initial operating capability for the MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft is currently planned for the mid-2020s”.

The spokesperson added that the SeaGuardian is “intended to provide a combination of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and relatively close-range precision strike capabilities in support of multi-domain operations”.

According to Janes market reports, Australia's unique geography requires the country to seek additional development or modifications to military equipment being acquired.

The DoD declined to provide details on the specific avionics and systems that will be installed aboard the MQ-9Bs on order. However, the manufacturer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc (GA-ASI), told Janes that the MQ-9Bs will be equipped with sensors and systems, which enable it to operate in multidomain operations.

“The basic configuration is expected to include the Raytheon Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems-D (MTS-D) EO/IR [electro-optic/infrared] sensor and the General Atomics Lynx AN/APY-8 Synthetic Aperture Radar. However, yet-to-be confirmed additional sensors and systems, some unique to the Australian MQ-9B variant, are also expected in the baseline aircraft, while additional sensors and systems are likely to be fitted during later upgrade activity,” GA-ASI spokesperson C Mark Brinkley told Janes.

The DoD said that the ‘first pass' government approval was announced in June 2018 to acquire 12–16 armed medium-altitude long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft systems – specifically a variant of the MQ-9 by the mid-2020s.

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