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US approves sale of MQ-9 drones to Taiwan

US greenlights sale of MQ-9B SeaGuardian drones on eve of election, increasing tensions with China

(GA-ASI image)

(GA-ASI image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The U.S. State Department announced on Tuesday (Nov. 3) that it has agreed to sell four unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Taiwan to help enhance its defense capabilities as China ratchets up its intimidation campaign.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which is under the State Department, on Tuesday stated that it has formally notified Congress of the proposed sale of four MQ-9B UAVs, along with related equipment and personnel training, valued at US$600 million. This is the final stage of the arms sale process in Congress.

Now that the State Department has formally notified Congress of the sale, the latter has 30 days to object to it. However, because both of the major American political parties currently support Taiwan’s defense, Congress is unlikely to oppose the sale.

The variant of the MQ-9 being sold to Taiwan is the SeaGuardian, which marks the first such deal with Taiwan since the Trump administration loosened restrictions on the export of advanced drone technology. Although MQ-9Bs can be equipped with weapons, the four sold to Taiwan will carry reconnaissance equipment.

The MQ-9B is a large unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) for the U.S. Air Force. The hunter-killer UAV is an advanced model modified from the MQ-1 Predator and designed for long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance.

The drones are reportedly part of a larger deal that includes the shore-mounted Harpoon missile system, High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER), and six external sensor pods. The total cost of the weapons package thus far has reached US$5 billion, with another $2 billion in arms sales reportedly in the works.