Belgium-based SABCA will supply Satellite Communications (SATCOM) radomes for the MQ-9B SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), the RPA manufacturer General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) announced.
“We’re pleased to have SABCA as our supplier for MQ-9B SATCOM radomes,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “This is a complex, major component of the MQ-9B airframe, subject to strict manufacturing process requirements characteristic of type-certified aircraft production. I’m confident that SABCA is up to the task.”
After being qualified by GA-ASI in 2019, SABCA (Sociétés Anonyme Belge de Constructions Aéronautiques) has been officially awarded the production of the lightning-protected SATCOM radome for the worldwide fleet of MQ-9B. The production of the first radome will start in 2020 in SABCA’s Limburg facilities in Belgium.
“We are very proud to be part of the MQ-9B project and to add GA-ASI to our customer list,” said Thibauld Jongen, CEO of the SABCA group. “This is a recognition of SABCA’s expertise in complex composite structure and a first concretization of our excellent partnership with GA-ASI.”
SABCA is one of GA-ASI’s team of Belgian suppliers – known as Team SkyGuardian Belgium – that will be providing content for all MQ-9B aircraft. The Government of Belgium has approved Belgian Defense to negotiate the acquisition of MQ-9B to meet the nation’s RPA requirements.
In March 2019, the U.S. State Department approved the sale of MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) and related equipment to Belgium for an estimated cost of $600 million under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.
The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is acquiring the MQ-9B as part of its Protector RG Mk1 program and is scheduled for first delivery in the early 2020s. In December, the Australian Government announced the selection of GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) under Project Air 7003.
MQ-9B development began in 2014 as a company-funded program to deliver an RPA to meet the stringent airworthiness type-certification requirements of NATO and civil aviation authorities throughout the world. The MQ-9B is provisioned for the GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid System (DAAS), and is built for all-weather performance with lightning protection, damage tolerance, and a de-icing system.