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United States approves the sale of MQ-9B drones for UAE to locate submarine and counter naval threats


According to information published by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) on November 11, 2020, the U.S. State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $2.97 billion that will be used to locate submarines and counter-land and counter-surface sea capabilities for its security and defense.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft. (Picture source GA-ASI)


The U.S. Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has requested to buy up to eighteen (18) Weapons-Ready MQ-9B, Remotely Piloted Aircraft as well as associated equipment including communication systems and weapons.

The MQ-9B is a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) designed and manufactured by the American Company GA-ASI (General Atomics Aeronautical Systems) based on the Predator B.

MQ-9B contains both hardware and software upgrades, such as improved structural fatigue and damage tolerance and more robust flight control software, as well as enhancements allowing operations in adverse weather including icing conditions. Additionally, the aircraft will be designed to survive bird and lightning strikes.

The MQ-9 Reaper has an operational ceiling of 50,000ft, a maximum internal payload of 800 lb (363 kg), and an external payload exceeding 4,000 lb (1,814 kg). The drone is fitted with 9 hardpoints including 8 under the wings and one centerline. It can be armed with Hellfire anti-tank missiles, laser-guided bombs (GBU-12 or EGBU-12), and GBU-38 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition).

The MQ-9 Reaper is powered by a Honeywell TPE331-10 Turboprop engine. It can fly at a maximum speed of 210 knots at a maximum altitude of 40,000 ft MSL with an endurance of 40 hours. It has a length of 38 ft (11.7m) and a wingspan of 79 ft (24m).

The proposed sale will improve the UAE’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing timely Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), target acquisition, locate submarines and counter-land and counter-surface sea capabilities for its security and defense. The capability is a deterrent to regional threats and strengthens its self-defense. The UAE has demonstrated a commitment to modernizing its military and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles into its armed forces.

The principal contractors will be General Atomic Aeronautical Systems, San Diego, CA; Lockheed Martin, Bethesda, MD; Raytheon, Waltham, MA; L3Harris, Inc., Melbourne, FL; and Leonardo SpA, Rome, Italy. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale. However, the purchaser typically requests offsets. Any offset agreements will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and the contractor(s).