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Taiwan to get four MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones from US.

| Defense News Aerospace 2024

On March 11, 2024, US DoD announced that Taiwan is set to significantly enhance its air defense capabilities with the acquisition of four MQ-9B drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) provided by the United States. The first units of this advanced equipment are expected to arrive in 2026, marking a crucial step in Taiwan's efforts to improve its surveillance and defensive capabilities amidst rising regional tensions.
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Taiwan to get four MQ 9B SkyGuardian drones from USGeneral Atomics MQ-9B SkyGuardian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (Picture source: GA-ASI)

The United States Department of Defense has confirmed the awarding of a contract to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the manufacture of these drones, which also includes the delivery of two certifiable ground control stations, spare parts, and support equipment. With completion expected by August 11, 2027, and a budget allocated up to $250,063,810 for the procurement of MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones for Taiwan, this project highlights the United States' support for enhancing Taiwan's defensive capabilities within the complex strategic landscape of the Asia-Pacific.

The order of four MQ-9B SkyGuardian drones by Taiwan, complemented by the acquisition of two certifiable ground control stations, spare parts, and support equipment, demonstrates Taiwan's determination to strengthen its defense infrastructure. These drone systems will significantly enhance Taiwan's ability to conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, providing a comprehensive view of potential threats and facilitating a swift and informed response to any incursions. Amid increasing tensions with China, which regards Taiwan as a secessionist province and does not rule out the use of force for reunification, the SkyGuardian drones afford Taiwan an elevated level of security and situational awareness.

The MQ-9B is known for its exceptional endurance, enabling prolonged operations without the need for return to base, which represents a significant advantage for reconnaissance and surveillance missions. The integration of these drones into Taiwan's arsenal is seen by defense experts as a qualitative leap for the island's aerial surveillance and security.

This acquisition is part of Taiwan's ongoing efforts to improve its defense against regional threats, enhancing its capability to monitor its borders and respond quickly to potential incursions. The arrival of the MQ-9B, scheduled in two batches with the first two drones expected in 2026 and the following two in 2027, represents a key development in the modernization of the Taiwanese armed forces.

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian stands at the forefront of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), offering an unprecedented capability for global intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR). Designed for long-duration missions of up to 40+ hours in all weather conditions, SkyGuardian can operate well beyond the horizon via satellite links, safely integrating into civil airspace. This capability allows joint forces and civil authorities to provide real-time situational awareness day or night, anywhere in the world. Equipped with the revolutionary Lynx Multi-mode Radar, an advanced electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor, automatic takeoff and landing systems, and featuring a wingspan of 79 feet (24 meters) – larger than its predecessors – the SkyGuardian redefines the standards of surveillance and endurance.

Benefiting from a legacy of systems that have accumulated over 8 million flight hours over the past decade, supporting global operations from the battlefield to environmental and humanitarian efforts, SkyGuardian offers enhanced payload capacity and an open architecture system. This enables the aircraft to integrate the most advanced sensor payloads for intelligence gathering, survivability, and even kinetic payloads for more complex operational environments. With nine hardpoints (eight under the wings, one centerline) and a maximum external payload capacity of 4750 pounds (2155 kg), the SkyGuardian allows armed forces and governments to easily integrate sovereign payloads and mission systems, offering tailored solutions to meet specific operational needs.

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