Poland is concluding the purchase of MALE-class MQ-9B SkyGuardian unmanned systems, Dave Alexander, president of General Atomics, the system’s manufacturer, told defence-blog.com. The intention is to replace the leased MQ-9A Reaper system.
Poland today leases a single MQ-9A Reaper system, which is an earlier version of the SkyGuardian. The contract was signed in autumn 2022 and the system immediately went into service in the Polish Armed Forces. However, it was planned from the outset that the lease of the Reapers was temporary, and that they would eventually be replaced by SkyGuardian machines.
The MQ-9B SkyGuardian is an American unmanned combat aerial vehicle manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The range of the new version of the MQ-9B is more than 2,200km and flight time can reach up to 40 hours at altitudes of up to 15km. Compared to the previous version of the MQ-9A Reaper, the wingspan has been increased (it is now 24m) and the machine can carry more than 2.15 tonnes of external payload at nine knots, including eight under-wing and one sub-wing load.
The MQ-9B can perform a variety of tasks, such as imagery, radar and radio reconnaissance of targets on land, sea and in the air, strike missions (and to some extent combat air targets) and support of crisis response operations. Its data can be useful for artillery, according to the experience of recent conflicts causing the greatest losses to the enemy.
When the system is used for maritime operations, the UAV can detect and destroy surface vessels, locate submarines, and monitor a specific zone in search of, for example, illegal maritime trade. This relieves the burden on other larger platforms, such as reconnaissance aircraft, and operating costs are much lower than for manned solutions.