Belgian Defense Ministry Announces Completion of Initial Training for First MQ-9B Crews

In March 2019, the State Department approved the sale of four MQ-9B SkyGuardians and associated equipment for an estimated $600M.
  • Defensemirror.com bureau
  • 07:39 AM, June 20, 2024
  • 649
Belgian Defense Ministry Announces Completion of Initial Training for First MQ-9B Crews
MQ-9B SkyGuardian @Belgian MoD

The Belgian defense ministry disclosed on Wednesday that the first six Belgian crews have concluded the initial phase of their MQ-9 Sky Guardian training program.

Over the course of several months, the crews underwent training at the General Atomics facility situated in North Dakota. This program equipped them with the necessary skills to operate the MQ-9B Sky Guardian effectively. Subsequent training phases are slated to take place in California, United States, and Waddington, United Kingdom, the ministry said.

Preparations are already underway to incorporate the drones into Belgium's Florennes Air Base, with the ministry affirming that efforts are in full swing.

Belgium's decision to acquire the MQ-9B Sky Guardian dates back to October 2018. Notably, Belgian Defense Minister Steven Vandeput emphasized that the drones would not be outfitted with weapons. He highlighted the growing significance of Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drones in military operations, stressing a notable shortage of such aircraft at the European level.

Belgian Defense Ministry Announces Completion of Initial Training for First MQ-9B Crews
MQ-9B SkyGuardian @Belgian MoD

In March 2019, the State Department approved the sale of four MQ-9B SkyGuardians and associated equipment for an estimated $600 million. A contract valued at nearly $190 million was announced the following year in August by the Pentagon for the procurement of MQ-9Bs for Belgium.

Belgium became the first international participant in the MQ-9B SkyGuardian operators club established by the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) in April 2023.

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian is the latest variant of the MQ-9 series Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) and is currently utilized by the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, France, with Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium soon to follow suit.

This aircraft meets NATO STANAG 4671 airworthiness requirements, boasting lightning protection, composite materials, and sense and avoid technology. Key performance enhancements include a 24-meter wingspan with winglets, providing a 40-hour endurance at an altitude of 15,000 meters. Notable features include a High Definition EO/IR Full Motion Video sensor, De/Anti-Icing System, TCAS, and Automatic Take-Off & Land capabilities. Moreover, the system incorporates a completely redesigned and modernized integrated ground control station equipped with four crew stations.

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