The sale of four U.S.-made MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones to Taiwan has crossed a key hurdle in Congress and is at the last stage of approval, Reuters reported Monday citing sources.
According to the report, the U.S. State Department is expected to formally notify the U.S. Congress of the sale later this week. The formal notification gives Congress 30 days to object to any sales, but this is unlikely given broad bipartisan support for Taiwan.
The report noted that the $600 million deal, which also includes associated ground stations and training, would be the first sale of a sophisticated drone since U.S. policy on the export of its closely guarded drone technology was loosened by the Trump administration.
The approval for the SeaGuardian sale will most likely to add to already strained ties with China. Beijing considers Taiwan a wayward province that it has vowed to bring under control, by force if necessary, while Washington is required by law to provide the country with the means to defend itself.
The approval for the SeaGuardian drones would be third high-profile sales package approved by the U.S. for Taiwan in the past two weeks.
On Oct. 21, the U.S. State Department approved a possible sale of $1.8 billion worth of armaments, consisting of HIMARS launchers, missiles and reconnaissance pods, to Taiwan under the FMS program. The potential sale includes 11 M142 HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) launchers along with 64 M57 ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) with a combined estimated worth of $436.1 million, 135 AGM-84H SLAM-ER (Standoff Land Attack Missile Expanded Response) air-launched stand-off cruise missiles worth estimated $1.008 billion and six MS-110 reconnaissance pods worth estimated $367.2 million.
In response to this announcement, China said it will sanction three American defense contractors, Lockheed Martin, Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS) and Raytheon. These companies were the prime contractors for the three sales.
On Oct. 26, a possible sale of up to 100 Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems (HCDS), consisting of up to 400 RGM-84L-4 Harpoon Block II Surface Launched Missiles and four RTM-84L-4 Harpoon Block II Exercise Missiles, to Taiwan was approved by the State Department for an estimated cost of $2.37 billion.
Boeing is also the prime contractor for Harpoon missiles.
MQ-9B SeaGuardian is a variant of MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) configured for maritime intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) mission. The drones are developed by American company General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI).
The SeaGuardian RPAS features a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, a High-Definition – Full-Motion Video (HD FMV) sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. This sensor suite, augmented by automatic track correlation and anomaly-detection algorithms, enables real-time detection and identification of surface vessels over thousands of square nautical miles.