A few months ago, in the California sky, the inaugural flight of the Protector RG Mk1, the UK’s first remotely piloted aircraft, took place. The Protector RG Mk1, in reality, is nothing more than the British version of the MQ-9b Sky Guardian produced by General Atomics. The British Ministry of Defence, in fact, last summer signed a 65-million-pound contract with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the supply of 3 aircrafts that in the future will form part of a fleet (about 16 drones) that will replace the current ones. MQ9 Reaper of the Royal Air Force (RAF). The total cost of the operation? Around 180 million pounds.
The Protector RG Mk1 is considered as an innovation in the world of British aviation, resulting in a radical change in the capabilities of the RAF. The Protectors will be able to operate in all over the world, following the direct commands given from the base of RAF Waddington (Lincolnshire), which will be operational by 2024.
The Protector RG Mk1 represents the first MQ-9B Sky Guardian sold by General Atomics, but its not the only one in the world. The company has already produced 3 other MQ-9B Sky Guardian aircrafts, which however are used internally to support qualification and certification.
The first Protector built for the British government will be utilized as a system test for a team composed of: United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, the U.S. Air Force and General Atomics. Once the tests are completed, the Protector will be delivered to the British Ministry of Defence in the summer of 2021.
The main objective of the British Ministry of Defence is to replace Reaper drones, used in missions in the Middle East (Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq). The Protector RG Mk1 will be used in ISTAR (Intelligence Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance) operations and to support civilian agencies in the UK (in case of search and rescue missions).
Absolutely. The Protector RG Mk1, is armed with Brimstone (MBDA) missiles and laser-guided bombs. The Protectors will also be equipped with advanced anti-lightning and ice protection, for operation in even in the most adverse weather conditions.
Finally, we leave you with the statements of Group Captain Shaun Gee, RAF’s Director Air ISTAR Programs: “The Protector will be deployed in wide-ranging Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations where its ability to fly consistently for up to 40 hours will offer a vastly improved ISTAR capability. Given that it is designed to fly in non-segregated, civil airspace, the Protector RPAS will also be able to support multiple civilian missions, including search and rescue and disaster response missions,” said Group Captain Shaun Gee, the RAF’s Director Air ISTAR Programmes”.
[Image credits: https://www.raf.mod.uk/]