WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department on Friday approved a $1.6 billion foreign military sale of MQ-9B drones for Australia.

The package includes up to 12 MQ-9B aircraft made by General Atomics, as well as Honeywell engines, ground control stations, training simulators, and various satellite terminals and communications equipment necessary for the MQ-9 pilot and sensor operator to control the drone from a remote location.

It also contains a suite of sensors and weapons, predominantly manufactured by Raytheon Technologies, Lockheed Martin and Leonardo. Those include Raytheon’s Multi-Spectral Targeting System-D electro-optical/infrared sensors; Lynx AN/APY-8 synthetic aperture radars; Leonardo’s SAGE 750 electronic support measure system; Rio communication intelligence systems; and six Joint Direct Attack Munition tail kits.

The $1.6 billion price announced Friday is the starting point for negotiations on a final contract. Once the State Department approves an FMS case, Congress has an opportunity to weigh in on the presumptive sale. If lawmakers do not object, the foreign customer begins negotiations with the contractor on the price and quantity of products, yielding a final contract agreement.

In November 2019, Australia announced that it would buy the MQ-9B SkyGuardian after shortlisting it alongside the MQ-9 Reaper in 2018 as potential contenders for the Royal Australian Air Force’s armed medium-altitude, long-endurance drone program, according to the Australia Defence Business Review.

Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.

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