In a big development, the United States has approved a possible sale of armed MQ-9B drones to Taiwan on Tuesday, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) informed via a press release.
The deal is estimated to cost $600 million for the procurement of 4 weapons-ready MQ-9B SkyGuardian RPAs (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) and related logistical equipment by Taiwan.
According to the release, the proposed Foreign Military Sales (FMS) would involve 4 units of the MQ-9B, 2 fixed ground control stations, 2 mobile ground control stations, and 14 Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigations Systems (EGI) with Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM) (12 installed, 2 spares).
“Also included are MX-20 Multi-Spectral Targeting Systems and spares; SeaVue Maritime Multi-Role Patrol Radars; SAGE 750 Electronic Surveillance Measures (ESM) Systems; C-Band Line-of-Sight (LOS) Ground Data Terminals; Ku-Band SATCOM GA-ASI Transportable Earth Stations (GATES); AN/DPX-7 IFF Transponders; Honeywell TPE-331-10GD Turboprop Engines; M6000 UHF/VHF Radios; KIV-77 Mode 5 IFF cryptographic appliques; AN/PYQ-10C Simple Key Loaders; secure communications, cryptographic and Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) equipment; initial spare and repair parts; hard points, power, and data connections for weapons integration; support and test equipment; publications and technical documentation; personnel training and training equipment; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistical and program support,” mentions the release, informing about the included sensors and logistics package.
The inclusion of Maritime Patrol Radars might hint that the “SeaGuardian” variant would be on the table, which is the navalised version of the MQ-9B “SkyGuardian” UAV.
This is a proposed sale, however not finalized yet, and would surely enhance the island nation’s capabilities to keep an eye on its maritime borders where PLA aircraft and navy frequently conduct territorial violations.
These violations have increased to a great extent in the second half of 2020, with open threats from Beijing over an invasion from the mainland.
“This proposed sale will improve the recipient’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing timely Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), target acquisition, and counter-land, counter-sea, and anti-submarine strike capabilities for its security and defense. The capability is a deterrent to regional threats and will strengthen the recipient’s self-defense,” the American statement added.
Interestingly, the United States has been pushing for the sale of the same MQ-9B UCAVs (unmanned combat aerial vehicles) to India, which it had reportedly rejected citing high costs and vulnerability in well-defended airspace.
Nevertheless, it is moving forward with its own “Project Cheetah”, which is to arm its Heron fleet with bombs and missiles.
While the Indian deal might be on hold for now, Taiwan would surely benefit from these systems which provide it with a credible deterrence against PLA vessels, even giving it an option to strike them using precision-guided munitions in case of a serious intrusion.