Taiwan Confirms Purchase of MQ-9 SeaGuardians

This Wednesday, Taiwanese Parliament member Wang Ting-yu announced that on August 24 the Taiwan Ministry of National Defense signed a contract worth NT$16.88 billion for the purchase of four MQ-9B SeaGuardian aircraft. This contract comes almost two years after the United States Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced that the US State Department had approved a possible Foreign Military Sale to Taiwan of four MQ-9B Guardians unmanned aerial vehicles.

This announcement comes during a time of heightened tensions between Taiwan and China, with a major escalation of People’s Liberation Army aircraft crossing into the Taiwanese air defense identification zone (ADIZ). These incursions are part of a series of live fire exercises around the island of Taiwan in response to visits by US government officials, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the highest ranking official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.  

The initial DSCA announcement stated that the SeaGuardians, equipped with the Wescam MX-20 electro-optical/infrared camera gimbal and Raytheon SeaVue maritime radar system, are intended to “meet current and future threats by providing timely Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), target acquisition, and counter-land, counter-sea, and anti-submarine strike capabilities for [Taiwan’s] security and defense.

Teng Yun drones at an air base in 2020. 
Two Teng Yun unmanned aerial vehicles on the ground at Chiashan Air Force Base, Hualien County, Taiwan. Source

The MQ-9Bs are planned to be stationed in Hualien County, the Liberty Times reports. Hualien County is home to Chiashan Air Force Base, host of Taiwan’s MQ-9-inspired Teng Yun unmanned aerial vehicles. Teng Yun, developed by the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), has an endurance of 24 hours flight time, with a maximum range of 1,000km. Teng Yun 2, the successor to Teng Yun, does not have any published specifications. Teng Yun 2 flew a 10+ hour test flight in June of this year around the inside border of the Taiwan air defense identification zone.

This announcement comes just a few months after the Japanese Coast Guard announced that they would be procuring the same variant of the MQ-9B, for the same purpose of monitoring maritime borders. The Japanese SeaGuardian program is scheduled to begin in October of this year, while the first of the four Taiwanese SeaGuardians are planned to arrive in 2025.