Belgium FMS Request for MQ-9B SkyGuardian UAVs Cleared by State Department

A government-to-government Foreign Military Sales (FMS) request by Belgium for four MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft has been given clearance by the U.S. State Department, with notification sent to Congress on March 25. The potential sale – including two ground control stations and other associated equipment – is estimated at $600 million, with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems serving as prime contractor.

Belgium intends to utilize the SkyGuardian medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as an ISR (intelligence, surveillance,  reconnaissance) capability.

Belgium’s Ministry of Defense opted for the General Atomics derivative of the Predator B, the MQ-9B SkyGuardian, after considering other platforms to meet the country’s MALE drone requirement, including the Israeli Heron TP (IAI), the Hermes 900 (Elbit Systems), and Safran’s Patroller.

The procurement is being made as part of Belgium’s larger Strategic Defense Plan (Vision) 2030. The Belgian Council of Ministers gave the Defense Ministry the green-light to launch negotiations with the U.S. for the procurement of these drone systems in October 2018. In order to smooth the process, General Atomics has partnered with five local Belgian suppliers: SABCA, Thales Belgium, Esterline, DronePort and Newtec.

Once a contract is finalized, deliveries are expected to run  from 2021 through 2024, but with an in-service target of 2025.

Belgium has also considered adding two more SkyGuardian UAVs with the intention of bringing these follow-on units into service around 2030.

MQ-9B SkyGuardian.   Image: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI)

About Daniel Darling

Dan Darling is Forecast International’s director of military and defense markets. In this role, Dan oversees a team of analysts tasked with covering everything from budgeting to weapons systems to defense electronics and military aerospace. Additionally, for over 17 years Dan has, at various times, authored the International Military Markets reports for Europe, Eurasia, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region. Dan's work has been cited in Defense News, Real Clear Defense, Asian Military Review, Al Jazeera, and Financial Express, among others, and he has also contributed commentary to The Diplomat, The National Interest and World Politics Review. He has been quoted in Arabian Business, the Financial Times, Flight International, The New York Times, Bloomberg and National Defense Magazine. In addition, Dan has made guest appearances on the online radio show Midrats and on The Media Line, as well as The Red Line Podcast, plus media appearances on France 24 and World Is One News (WION).

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