General Atomics to build 4 MA-9B SkyGuardian UAVs, ground-control stations, and sensor payloads for Belgium

Aug. 18, 2020
The MQ-9B SkyGuardian is a version of the Predator B UAV that meets the STANAG-4671 NATO standard, which is a NATO UAV airworthiness certification.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio – Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designers at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. in Poway, Calif., will build four MQ-9B SkyGuardian UAVs for Belgium under terms of a $188.9 million contract announced Friday.

Officials of the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, are asking General Atomics to build the four MQ-9B UAVS, two certifiable ground-control stations, spare parts, and support equipment.

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian is a version of the General Atomics Predator B UAV that meets the STANAG-4671 NATO standard, which is the NATO UAV airworthiness certification to enable military UAVs to operate in the airspace of other NATO members. It incorporates designs necessary to achieve a type-certifiable system.

Related: Sensor payloads for unmanned vehicles

General Atomics is building the MQ-9B SkyGuardian from the ground up to meet global airworthiness standards, and involves hardware and software upgrades such as improved structural fatigue and damage tolerance, high-reliability flight-control software, enhancements that enable operations in adverse weather conditions like icing, and the ability to survive bird and lightning strikes.

MQ-9B can be configured with UAV sensor payloads such as detect and avoid (DAA), and airborne due regard radar (DRR) for operation in non-cooperative airspace.

The MQ-9B can fly as high as 40,000 feet above sea level, as fast as 210 knots, and can fly unrefueled for as long as 40 hours.

Related: AeroVironment to build small UAVs with surveillance and reconnaissance unmanned sensor payloads

It has the Raytheon MTS-B multispectral targeting system electro-optical system, the General Atomics Lynx multi-mode radar, VHF/UHF radios, DO-178 and DO-254 design assurance for software and avionics, de-ice/anti-ice system. automatic takeoff and landing, and fire-protected engine bay.

The weaponized version of the MQ-9B can carry a variety of precision-guided missions, multimode maritime surface-search radar, and automation information system.

On this contract General Atomics will do the work in Poway, Calif., and should be finished by March 2024. For more information contact General Atomics Aeronautical Systems online at, or the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at

About the Author

John Keller | Editor-in-Chief

John Keller is the Editor-in-Chief, Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine--provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronics and optoelectronic technologies in military, space and commercial aviation applications. John has been a member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since 1989 and chief editor since 1995.

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