General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has partnered with five companies in Belgium for the MQ-9B SkyGuardian programme.

The businesses are SABCA, Thales Belgium, Esterline, DronePort, and satellite communication technology company Newtec.

The partnership between the firms is part of an industrial collaboration effort with the Belgian aerospace and defence industry.

The new MQ-9B SkyGuardian medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) was selected by the Government of Belgium last year.

MQ-9B SkyGuardian will meet the remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) system requirements of Belgian Defense.

A memorandum of understanding between GA-ASI and SABCA will involve cooperation for production of the lightning-protected SATCOM radome for all MQ-9B SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian UASs.

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“GA-ASI and Thales Belgium will provide solutions such as RPA surveillance sensor data processing, exploitation, and dissemination, and integration of MQ-9B into Belgian military data networks.”

It also will see the parties provide maintenance repair operations (MRO) activities, as well as initial in-country entry into service and support for SkyGuardian.

In addition, the two companies plan to establish the first Europe-based MRO facility for MQ-9B actuators at SABCA in Brussels.

SABCA CEO Thibauld Jongen said: “SABCA’s focus on MRO and upgrade of platforms and equipment positions our company as a strong industrial partner to GA-ASI for this endeavour.

“We look forward to transferring our proven expertise in manned aircraft system integration, testing, qualification, and certification to ensure the success of Belgium’s new RPA programme.”

GA-ASI and Thales Belgium will provide solutions such as RPA surveillance sensor data processing, exploitation, and dissemination (PED), and integration of MQ-9B into Belgian military data networks.

Esterline in Flanders will provide the SkyGuardian ground control stations displays, while DronePort Incubator will provide segregated airspace for testing and demonstration of new UAV applications.

More than €100m is estimated to be delivered in total economic value to Belgian industry during the SkyGuardian programme.