A SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) will deploy to the Royal Air Force station Waddington in Lincolnshire this summer, allowing personnel to get familiar with the system they will operate from 2023.
The pre-production example of the new Protector RPAS will be operated by the manufacturer, General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems.
During its stay in the UK, the SkyGuardian will participate in Joint Warrior, a multi-national large-scale military exercise in addition to undertaking a series of capability demonstrations to partners and allies.
The deployment will also allow the RAF to refine the requirements needed to fully integrate Protector operations into Waddington, where the RPAS will operate alongside the based fixed wing aircraft.
The UK has already ordered the first three Protector RG Mk 1 systems (three aircraft, three ground control stations and supporting equipment) as the first phase of the acquisition, with the additional 13 aircraft, four ground control stations and support equipment expected this year.
“The return of SkyGuardian, which will be known as Protector in RAF service in 2023, to the UK this summer offers an exciting glimpse of the future. Protector will be able to fly for up to 40 hours in civil airspace, meaning it will be able to deliver an array of military or civil support missions,” Air Commodore Richard Barrow said.
Protector is an advanced, medium altitude long endurance (MALE) RPAS procured to replace the RAF’s Reaper. It will bring enhanced armed Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability, including extended range, increased payload and planned integration of UK weapons.
SkyGuardian will arrive at RAF Waddington in July.