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US military aid package to Taiwan to include 4 MQ-9A drones

Primary function of MQ-9A drones is for intelligence collection

Italian Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone. (General Atomics photo)

Italian Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone. (General Atomics photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A U.S. military weapons aid package worth US$345 million (NT$10.99 billion) to Taiwan announced at the end of July includes four MQ-9A reconnaissance drones, CNA reported on Monday (Aug. 14).

An unnamed Taiwanese military source told CNA that an exact delivery date has not been set as the U.S. needs to first remove some of the advanced equipment from the drones that only the U.S. Air Force is allowed to access. When asked for comment by the news outlet, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) said it could not provide details on the weapons package as part of the agreement with the U.S.

The MQ-9A “Reaper” drone is manufactured by military contractor General Atomics, and is remotely operated by a two-person team, made up of a pilot and an aircrew member to operate sensors, according to the U.S. Air Force. It has a 20.1-meter wingspan and is 11 meters long and has a range of around 1,851 km, with a ceiling of up to 15,240 m.

Its primary function, according to the U.S. Air Force, is for “intelligence collection.” The MQ-9A drone can fly over targets for about 24 hours, according to The Guardian.

Washington announced the US$345 million weapons package to Taiwan on July 28 using Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA). The PDA allows the president to transfer arms and services from existing U.S. stockpiles.

The U.S. Congress authorized up to US$1 billion worth of PDA weapons aid for Taiwan in its 2023 budget, according to Reuters.