The first Protector RG Mk1 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) system was officially handed over to the Royal Air Force after it completed acceptance test procedures in the United States.
Protector is a specially configured model of MQ-9B, designed to meet the unique requirements of the Royal Air Force.
The aircraft was accepted at the San Diego facility of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) by Air Vice Marshal Simon Ellard, Director Combat Air at Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), the procurement arm of the UK Ministry of Defence.
“It was a great pleasure to accept the official handover of the first Protector aircraft on behalf of the MOD, following the successful completion of Acceptance Test Procedures. We now look forward to the first delivery of this highly capable aircraft type to RAF Waddington during 2023,” he said.
“The acceptance of the first Protector aircraft is a significant and exciting milestone in the delivery of this world-class capability to the Royal Air Force. The aircraft will be used to train RAF technicians how to maintain the capability, prior to the arrival of the first aircraft in the UK next year,” RAF Air Commodore Alex Hicks added.
The acceptance test was performed jointly by the UK defense ministry and GA-ASI following the completion of the aircraft production and acceptance procedures. The procedure includes all inspections and tests performed on the hardware in operation for the aircraft and in conformance with the functional specification and technical requirements.
The trials took place at GA-ASI’s Desert Horizon flight operations facility in El Mirage, California. The aircraft will remain in the US to support maintenance and pilot training.
“This is another major milestone for MQ-9B and the Protector program,” said GA-ASI President David R. Alexander. “The Royal Air Force has been a great partner for General Atomics, and we’re thrilled to see ATP completed for this first customer aircraft.”
While the Royal Air Force is the launch customer for the MQ-9B with 16 units on order, the system has garnered interest from customers throughout the world. After the UK selected it, the Belgian defense ministry signed a contract for SkyGuardian. Later this year, the Japan Coast Guard will begin operations using the MQ-9B in the SeaGuardian configuration.