General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) announced that it has teamed with five Belgium-based businesses as part of an industrial collaboration effort with the Belgian aerospace and defense industry.
Team SkyGuardian Belgium includes GA-ASI, SABCA, Thales Belgium, Esterline, DronePort, and satellite communication technology company Newtec.
The Government of Belgium recently announced the selection of MQ-9B SkyGuardian to meet the Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) requirements of Belgian Defense. GA-ASI’s MQ-9B has also been selected by the Royal Air Force for its PROTECTOR RG Mk1 program.
“GA-ASI looks forward to working with our Belgian teammates to make the MQ-9B procurement a success,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “We are very pleased to be joined in this endeavor by SABCA, Thales, Esterline, DronePort, and Newtec.”
GA-ASI and SABCA signed an MOU that outlines their cooperation for production and Maintenance Repair Operations (MRO) activities, including initial in-country entry into service and support for SkyGuardian. The MOU also covers production of the lightning-protected SATCOM radome for all MQ-9B SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian systems at SABCA Limburg. The parties intend to develop the first Europe-based MRO facility for MQ-9B actuators at SABCA in Brussels.
“SABCA’s focus on MRO and upgrade of platforms and equipment positions our company as a strong industrial partner to GA-ASI for this endeavor,” said Thibauld Jongen, CEO, SABCA. “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 program.”
GA‑ASI and Thales Belgium S.A. have signed an MOU to collaborate on RPA surveillance sensor data processing, exploitation, and dissemination (PED) solutions, including the integration of MQ-9B into Belgian military data networks. Thales Belgium has extensive experience providing intelligence, infrastructure, and PED capabilities to Belgian forces.
“RPA technology is critical to protecting the national security interests of countries around the globe,” said Alain Quevrin, CEO, Thales Belgium S.A. “We look forward to sharing our technical and in-country expertise with GA-ASI as it seeks to support Belgium’s current Medium-altitude, Long-range (MALE) RPA requirement.”
As part of its European supply chain, the company procures Ground Control Station displays from Esterline in Flanders. “As a trusted and long-time partner of GA-ASI, Esterline is looking forward to equipping the SkyGuardian Ground Control Stations, thus supporting both GA-ASI and the Belgian Air Force,” said Michel Potvin, president of Esterline Avionics Systems. “We are proud to be part of this new RPA program and are keen to further develop a joint roadmap together with GA-ASI, capitalizing on the ruggedized visualization expertise of our Kortrijk facility.”
DronePort Incubator is the home for startups and research teams involved in the new, unmanned aviation market. The test facilities provide segregated airspace and the opportunity to test and demonstrate new UAV applications. DronePort will facilitate the identification of UAS-technology seed funding opportunities within Belgium.
“DronePort sees in this partnership with GA-ASI and the other partners a huge opportunity for the numerous start-ups and scale-ups in Belgium. The transfer of knowledge in this collaboration offers many new possibilities and strengthens the ecosystem around DronePort,” said Mark Vanlook, CEO, DronePort.
The total economic value of Team SkyGuardian’s efforts to Belgian industry is estimated to be in excess of €100 million over the life of the program.