Future MQ-9B remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) operators, the UK and Belgium, have agreed a bilateral statement of intent (SoI) that will see the two countries explore potential collaboration options.
The SoI was signed by Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, Chief of the Air Staff, and Major General Frederik Vansina, Commander of the Belgian Air Component. Both parties will now focus on opportunities to work together on training, maintenance, logistic support, interoperability and capability enhancement.
“The Royal Air Force and Belgian Air Force will explore opportunities to train, maintain and work together on this game changing aircraft using its cutting-edge sensors and systems to protect national, NATO and European security,” Royal Air Force Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston said.
“The introduction of Protector MQ-9B reflects a step change in remotely piloted aircraft operations in Europe and worldwide. The Royal Air Force is delighted that the Belgian Air Force will stand beside us again on that historic journey.”
The news of the collaboration agreement closely follows a $188.8 million contract General Atomics received last week for the delivery of four MQ-9B SkyGuardian RPAS to Belgium.
Known as Protector RG Mk1 in the UK, MQ-9B is the first RPAS to be designed, built and certified against stringent NATO and UK Safety Certification standards equivalent to piloted aircraft to allow flight in unsegregated civilian airspace.
Last month, UK defense secretary Ben Wallace announced a contract to build the first three UK Protectors with an option for 13 more in due course.
“As the second Air Force acquiring this system, we are proud to join the United Kingdom in setting the first milestones towards interoperability between both our systems,” Belgium’s Major General Frederik Vansina said.