Australia has requested the purchase of twelve US MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft

According to information published by the United States Department of Defense on April 23, 2021, the U.S. State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Australia of MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $1.651 billion.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 MQ-9 Remotely Piloted Aircraft at Paris AirShow 2011. (Picture source Navy Recognition)

The Government of Australia has requested to buy up to twelve (12) Weapons-Ready MQ-9B, Remotely Piloted Aircraft as well as accessories and armament. Also included in the request, are Honeywell aircraft engines; Certifiable Ground Control Stations (CGCSs); mobile Satellite Communication Ground Data Terminals (SGDTs); Leonardo SAGE 750 Electronic Surveillance Measures System (ESM); radar and radio equipment systems.

The proposed sale improves Australia’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing timely Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), target acquisition, locate submarine capabilities, and counter-land and counter-surface sea capabilities for its security and defense. This sale will enhance interoperability between the U.S. Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Australia has demonstrated a commitment to modernizing its military and will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.

The principal contractors will be General Atomic Aeronautical Systems Inc., San Diego, CA; Lockheed Martin Inc., Bethesda, MD; Raytheon Inc., Waltham MA; and Leonardo SpA, Rome, Italy. The purchaser typically requests offsets. Any offset agreement will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and the contractor(s).

The MQ-9B is available in two main variants, the SkyGuardian and the SEaGuardian both are unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI).

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian has a length of 11.7 m and a wingspan of 24 m with a maximum take-off weight of 5,670 kg. It is powered by a Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engine and can reach a top-flight speed of 210 knots with an endurance of 40 hours.

The MQ-9B can carry a payload of 363 kg in the fuselage and 1,814 kg under hardpoints. It can be fitted with sensors to perform long-range surveillance, intelligence, target acquisition, and tracking capabilities. The drone can also be armed with precision-guided munitions, Paveway IV laser-guided bomb, and Brimstone 2 air-to-surface missiles.

The SeaGuardian is a naval version of the MQ-9B which has more fuel capacity to reach a flight endurance of 49 hours. precision-guided munitions, Paveway IV laser-guided bomb, and Brimstone 2 air-to-surface missiles. The naval drone also features folding wings for storage, shortened, reinforced landing gear, an arresting hook, cut-down or eliminated ventral flight surfaces, and six store pylons for a total payload of 1,360 kg.