Just this week, the U.S. State Department approved the potential sale of MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) to Australia, in a deal that could be worth about $1.651 billion.
The potential sale, announced on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, involves up to twelve MQ-9B aircraft, precision-guided munitions, and related equipment.
According to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the complete package includes six KMU-572 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits for 500lb bombs; four MXU-650 Airfoil Groups for 500lb Paveway II GBU-12; seven MXU-1006 Airfoil Groups for 250lb Paveway II GBU-58; four MAU-169 or MAU-209 Computer Control Groups (CCGs) for 250lb/500lb Paveway II GBU-58/GBU-12; six FMU-139 Fuse Systems; twelve MK-82 General Purpose 500lb inert bombs; five High Bandwidth Compact Telemetry Modules (HCTMs).
In addition, its notice says that this proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States. Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific.
“The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region,” the DSCA notice says. “It is vital to the U.S. national interest to assist our ally in developing and maintaining a strong and ready self-defense capability.”
It is also important to note that DSCA said the principal contractors will be General Atomic Aeronautical Systems Inc., San Diego, CA; Lockheed Martin Inc., Bethesda, MD; Raytheon Inc., Waltham MA; and Leonardo SpA, Rome, Italy.
As noted by the GA-ASI, MQ-9B is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. Given its significant loiter time, wide-range sensors, multi-mode communications suite, and precision weapons, it provides a unique capability to perform strike, coordination, and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets.
This remotely piloted aircraft system can also perform the following missions and tasks: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, close air support, combat search and rescue, precision strike, buddy-lase, convoy and raid overwatch, route clearance, target development, and terminal air guidance. The MQ-9B’s capabilities make it uniquely qualified to conduct irregular warfare operations in support of combatant commander objectives.