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.
Dans le silence le gouvernement belge s'est doté de deux mq-9b skyguardian Drone des États-Unis pic.twitter.com/lKBoRXHR9l
— European News Agency Belgium (@Eunewsagency) March 27, 2019
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.