RCAF to Acquire Fleet of MQ-9B Armed Drones


MQ-9B SkyGuardian photo courtesy of General Atomics.

The government of Canada made simultaneous announcements on both the East and West Coast earlier this week that it has entered into a contract with U.S. manufacturer General Atomics for the purchase of a fleet of MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, to be delivered starting in 2028.

A variant of the MQ-9 Reaper, itself evolved from the Predator RPAS, the MQ-9B will be capable of staying aloft for us many as 20 hours at 50,000 feet. This makes it particularly apt for patrols in Canada’s far north. Depending on the mission, the drones can be armed with missiles, which are subject to a separate purchase contract directly with the U.S. government.

The SkyGuardian will be certified for flight in civilian airspace. Eleven SkyGuardians have been ordered with a total project cost of $2.49 billion. Included will be six ground stations and a control centre, which will house the aircraft cockpits, to be located in Ottawa. The drones will be based at CFB Comox in British Columbia and CFB Greenwood in Nova Scotia.

“This agreement to acquire the Remotely Piloted Aircraft System[s] will expand Canada’s ability to modernize its military force, contribute to joint intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations with its allies, and create good jobs in the aerospace and defence sector,” said defence minister Bill Blair in a press release coinciding with Tuesday’s announcements.

Canadian companies CAE, MDA Ltd., and the Canadian subsidiary of U.S.-based L3Harris Technologies will contribute to the project.

“We look forward to working with our Team SkyGuardian Canada partners to deliver our industry leading RPAS for Canada’s dynamic mission requirements,” said General Atomics CEO Linden Blue.

The same government press release took advantage of the opportunity to highlight the several recent multi-billion-dollar aircraft procurement announcements made this year, which included 88 F-35 fighters, 9 CC-330 Husky tanker/transport airplanes, up to 16 P-8A Poseidon multi-mission/surveillance airplanes and 16 new or upgraded CH-149 Cormorant helicopters.