Britain, Belgium to collaborate on MQ-9B drone acquisition

Britain and Belgium signed a statement of intent to work together after both countries acquire the MQ-9B drone, they announced this week.

The Remotely Piloted Aircraft System is built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems of San Diego, and is known as the Protector RG Mk1 in Europe.

In remote signing ceremonies on Tuesday, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston of the Royal Air Force and Maj. Gen. Frederik Vansina, Commander of the Belgian Air Component, agreed to seek cooperative opportunities for training, maintenance, logistic support, interoperability and capability enhancement.

"As the second Air Force acquiring this system, we are proud to join the United Kingdom in setting the first milestones towards interoperability between both our systems," said Vansina.

"Both our nations see great opportunity in developing strategic partnership and in doing so we will tackle shared challenges with greater strength on top of streamlining our Forces' interoperability in employing this state-of-the-art asset," Vansina said.

Britain will acquire three drones, with an option for 13 more. Belgium purchased four drones. Delivery dates were not announced.

The MQ-9 series, called the Reaper in the U.S.military, is the first hunter-killer unmanned aerial vehicle designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance. Thirty-six feet long and with a wingspan of 65 feet, it can also carry an ordnance payload.

The U.S. Air Force, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and NASA were the first customers to obtain the vehicle.

"The Royal Air Force and Belgian Air Force will explore opportunities to train, maintain and work together on this game changing aircraft using its cutting-edge sensors and systems to protect national, NATO and European security," Wigston said on Tuesday.

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