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Unmanned Vehicles

Aussies progress towards buying up to a dozen SkyGuardians

27th April 2021 - 13:30 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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The RAAF could buy up to 12 MQ-9B SkyGuardian UCAVs. (Photo: GA-ASI)

US State Department gives the green light to a $1.65 billion FMS package.

Australia is closer to receiving its first UCAV after the US State Department on 23 April approved a potential $1.65 billion FMS package for up to 12 weapons-ready MQ-9B SkyGuardian aircraft from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) plus munitions, sensors and other equipment.

The principal contractors will be General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Leonardo.

‘The purchaser typically requests offsets,’ the State Department added.

In addition to the dozen MQ-9Bs, the proposed FMS package includes 15 Raytheon Multi-Spectral Targeting System-D EO/IR sensors; 16 Lynx AN/APY-8 synthetic aperture radars with Ground Moving Target Indicator; 15 RIOTM communication intelligence systems; and 36 embedded GPS/INS units with Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Modules.

Munitions requested by Australia include Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) tail kits for 500lb bombs; airfoil groups for 500lb Paveway II GBU-12 and 250lb Paveway II GBU-58 bombs; 12 MK-82 general-purpose 500lb inert bombs; MK-81 general-purpose 250lb inert bombs; and the DSU-38 laser-illuminated target detector for JDAM.

Also included are Honeywell aircraft engines, the Leonardo SAGE 750 electronic surveillance measures system (ESM); General Dynamics SATCOM antennas and Hughes modems with USG encryption; Leonardo/Selex Seaspray 7500 maritime radars; KOR-24A Link 16 Small Tactical Terminal; an electronic intelligence system from Sierra Nevada; and an MQ-9B training simulator plus Hellfire training missiles, missile rail kits and integration.

The Australian Department of Defence in November 2019 down-selected SkyGuardian for Project Air 7003.

‘This sale will enhance interoperability between the US Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force,’ the State Department noted in its latest announcement, adding that the addition of SkyGuardian would improve Australian ISR capabilities at sea and on land.

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