General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has been awarded a contract to manufacture and deliver 13 additional Protector RG Mk1 Remotely Piloted Air Systems (RPAS) to the British Royal Air Force (RAF).
The U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD) has exercised the clause in its initial July 2020 contract with GA-ASI for 3 Protector RPAS, meaning the U.K. MoD will now receive a total of 16 Protector RPAS.
“Our fleet of 16 Protector aircraft equipped with ultra-modern technology will provide the Royal Air Force (RAF) with a vast global reach allowing us to monitor and protect the battlespace for hours on end,” said Jeremy Quin, U.K. Minister for Defense Procurement.
“The Protector program involves industry across the U.K. with vital parts of the aircraft manufactured on the Isle of Wight, supporting highly-skilled jobs for years to come.”
GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian is the baseline system being configured for the RAF as the Protector RG Mk1. It includes X-band Satellite Communications (SATCOM) and support for U.K. weapon systems, as well as its electro-optical sensor ball and Lynx Multi-mode Radar.
“This commitment for 13 additional unmanned aircraft confirms the long-term confidence of the U.K. MoD and the Royal Air Force in the MQ-9B system and the Protector program,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI.
“The MQ-9B system will bring unparalleled reconnaissance capability to the RAF and help to ensure the security of the U.K. and its allies.”
In September 2020, GA-ASI completed the first Protector-configured MQ-9B. Known as UK1, this first Protector will be delivered to the MoD later this year, but will remain in the U.S. to complete the Royal Air Force’s test and evaluation program before moving to its U.K. home base in 2022.
“The contract for the additional 13 Protector aircraft, taking the total to 16, is a major milestone for the U.K,” said Air Commodore Richard Barrow, Senior Responsible Owner for the RAF Protector Program.
“When Protector enters service in 2024, U.K. Defense will take an enormous jump forward in capability, giving us the ability to operate globally with this cutting edge, highly adaptable platform.”
The MQ-9B is designed to accommodate the GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid System (DAAS), which helps the aircraft integrate with the normal flow of aviation traffic and keeps operators in contact with air traffic control. The aircraft is built for adverse weather performance with lightning protection, damage tolerance, and ade-icing system.
MQ-9B features rapid integration of new payloads with nine hard points. The aircraft can self-deploy using SATCOM-enabled Automatic Takeoff and Landing, which eliminates forward-based launch-and-recovery equipment and personnel.
In addition to the Protector and SkyGuardian configurations, MQ-9B is available as the SeaGuardian – with revolutionary anti-submarine and surface search capabilities – for maritime missions.