Pentagon buys simulator for SkyGuardian drones for Belgium

Sylvie Claire / November 22, 2021

The Pentagon has announced that it has awarded a contract for approximately $ 31.72 million to the U.S. company General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) for the supply of a simulator for Belgium to complete the purchase of four MQ-9B SkyGuardian UAVs decided in 2018.
The $31.72 million contract calls for the purchase of an MQ-9B simulator by the US Air Force for Belgium via the FMS (Foreign Military Sales) procedure, commonly used by Washington for its state-to-state arms sales. It comes with personnel training, spare parts and support equipment, the Pentagon said Thursday in its daily contract awards bulletin.
The work (to build this simulator) will be performed in Poway (California, one of GA-ASI's headquarters) and is expected to be completed by March 31, 2024, the notice states.
The contract is managed by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
Belgium selected the MQ-9B SkyGuardian as a Male (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) - potentially armed - drone in October 2018.
Two systems, each comprising two aircraft, have been ordered, at a cost of 226 million euros. Deliveries are expected from 2023 to equip the 80th squadron stationed at the Florennes base, in the Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse region.
The purchase of this simulator is part of the overall contract between Belgium and the United States, said Saturday a specialist in the file to the agency Belga.
The SkyGuardian is the latest member of the prolific MQ-9 family born with the Predator in service with the U.S., British, French, Italian and soon Spanish, Dutch, Australian and Belgian militaries.
With a wingspan of 24 meters and a length of 11.7 meters, it is powered by a Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop. It is capable of carrying out ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) missions, detecting possible targets (Target acquisition) and designating targets for other armed vectors (Target designation) by flying for 40 hours at 40,000 feet (more than 13 km altitude). Equipped with nine carry points, this drone can be armed with missiles and bombs - a capability widely used by the United States and France in their war against armed jihadist groups in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa.
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