The Taiwanese government has reached out to the US Department of Defense (DoD) to contract General Atomics Aeronautical Systems to provide four of its MQ-9B SkyGuardian uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) with two certifiable ground control stations, spares and support equipment.

General Atomics is the original equipment manufacturer of the MQ-9B UAV, which makes this contract a sole-source acquisition. The contract is valued at $217.6m, of which Taiwan’s foreign military sales funds amount to $107.4m that will be obligated at the time of award. Work will be performed in Poway, California and is expected to be completed 5 May 2025.

Leading intelligence firm GlobalData tells us that Taiwan has been undergoing a rapid modernisation programme to maintain a state of military readiness as the country faces severe threats from China, which persistently claims the territory as its own. According to GlobalData’s report on the ‘Taiwan Defence Market, 2023-2028’ (2023), the country’s airforce only comprises two active fleets of platforms – both rotorcraft – that were acquired in the past ten years. Almost all of its other platforms were acquired before the last 20 years.

This makes the procurement of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian UAV a refreshing prospect that is due to be completed by 2025. It comes alongside enduring programmes like the country’s acquisition of 56 F-16 Vipers and T-5 Brave Eagle aircraft due to be delivered at the end of 2026.

Meanwhile, China, a regional bully spanning its claims across the Indo-Pacific, is taking advantage of the increasing demand for uncrewed aerial systems (UASs) among militaries worldwide and the US’ legal restriction on foreign sales of armed UASs under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), China has successfully tapped into a fastgrowing market.

Perks of the MQ-9B

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian is a remotely piloted aircraft system that delivers persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) around the globe. SkyGuardian is designed to fly over the horizon via satellite for up to 40 hours in all types of weather and safely integrate into civil airspace, enabling joint forces and civil authorities to deliver real-time situational awareness anywhere in the world—day or night.

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The aircraft is outfitted with the revolutionary Lynx Multi-mode Radar, an advanced electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor, automatic takeoff and landing, and features a longer wingspan than its predecessors at 79 ft (24m).

In addition to its industry-leading endurance and superior surveillance capabilities, SkyGuardian seamlessly integrates with its users’ other platforms, systems, and podded technologies, dramatically expanding the platform’s multi-domain mission sets.