United States close to approving the sale of MQ-9B SeaGuardian naval drones to Taiwan

According to information released by the International press agency Reuters on November 2, 2020, the United States is closed to approve the sale of MQ-9B SeaGuardian naval drones to Taiwan. In August 2020, Navy Recognition reported that Taiwan is negotiating the purchase of four American MQ-9B SeaGuardian maritime drones manufactured by the company General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI).
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 MQ-9B SeaGuardian naval drone. (Picture source General Atomics)

Citing Reuters, the U.S. State Department could formally notify Congress of the sale later this week, which will include ground stations and training.

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian is the latest variant of the MQ-9 series RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) currently operated by the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, France, and soon Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium. MQ-9B adds several key enhancements to the proven MQ-9 series allowing for better performance, lower operating and sustainment costs and access to all classes of airspace.

The MQ-9B flight operations are controlled from a single trailer containing pilot and payload operator consoles. Its architecture provides separation between flight and mission critical functions. Flight critical functions are performed using off-the-shelf avionics and flight computers running GA-ASI's certifiable Design Assurance Level software. The CGCS features a Pro Line Fusion® integrated avionics system from Collins Aerospace, the Abaco FORCE2C flight computer, as well as all the sensors and additional payload control for MQ-9B.

Its Common Operational Picture (COP) and improved display technology offer significantly improved situational awareness and reduced pilot workload. Its intuitive interfaces enhance the decision-making process by helping the pilot identify potentially hazardous situations more quickly and easily. In 2019, the CGCS successfully completed its first end-to-end flight with MQ-9B.

The SeaGuardian is the naval variant of the M-9B, it can be configured with cross-domain capabilities for a vast range of maritime surveillance operations, including, Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), HA/DR – Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief, Search and Rescue, Law Enforcement (Drug Trafficking, Illegal Immigration, Piracy, OMSI – Oceanic Maritime Security Initiative) and Airborne Counter Mine Capability (Developmental).

The MQ-9B Seaguardian has a length of 11.7m and a wingspan of 24m. It can operate at an altitude of 40,000 ft MSL (Mean Sea Level) and at a range of 5,000 nmi. The drone is powered by a 950 horsepower (710 kW) Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engine, it can reach a maximum speed of about 210 ktas with a maximum cruising range of 5,000 nmi.