MQ-9B Sky Guardian: cooperation between Belgium and the United Kingdom

In order to facilitate close cooperation and future collaboration on their respective MQ-9B programs, Belgium and the UK have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The UK, the main purchaser of the MQ-9B, which will be designated the Protector RG1 in RAF service, has established the MQ-9B Cooperation MOU to enable cooperation between like-minded international governments that have purchased a variant of the MQ-9B.

In 2024, the air component will receive this remote-controlled aircraft system in Belgium. It is an important asset for reconnaissance, surveillance, and information gathering.

The system, also called SkyGuardian, will be remotely piloted by a three-person crew operating from a control station at Florennes Airbase. This station will include a cabin with the “Remote Pilot,” a “Sensor Operator,” and a “Mission Intelligence Coordinator.”

The SkyGuardian is the first RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) designed, built, and certified to rigorous standards equivalent to those of piloted aircraft, allowing it to fly in civilian airspace.

With the signing, the UK and Belgium become initial participants in the MOU, which allows them to enter into detailed agreements to collaborate across all program areas, including airworthiness and certification, training, maintenance, and future airworthiness upgrades The skills.

“This agreement further cements the close relationship between the UK and Belgium and reaffirms our joint commitment to the strategic unity and defense of Europe and NATO,” said Air Commodore Alex Hicks, Deputy Chief of Staff of Cap ISR.

For his part, Major General Ivan De Tender, Head of the Belgian Public Procurement Division, said: “This collaboration allows us to develop synergies that optimize interoperability and support for SkyGuardian, creating economies of scale for all participants. In various fields such as staff training, certification and development of future skills”.

The United Kingdom and Belgium have also established the MQ-9B International Cooperation Program (MICP). Built around the Memorandum of Understanding, the MICP provides the processes and functionality to cooperate on certification, airworthiness, training, maintenance, and capability enhancement.

Currently, the MICP Community is made up of eight countries: Belgium and the United Kingdom in the lead, and another six countries as observers. The number of MICP members is expected to increase as several like-minded nations consider acquiring the MQ-9B.

The MQ-9B is a crucial surveillance tool because it is a remotely piloted aircraft system. It will be ready to be deployed against potential adversaries anywhere in the world with a full complement of cutting-edge equipment and precise attack weaponry.

Royal Air Force