Advanced Composites for PROTECTOR
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) and GKN Aerospace have signed a contract for the latter company to manufacture the advanced composite V-tails for GA-ASI’s new MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), the companies announced on 23 February.
SkyGuardian is the baseline system for the Royal Air Force’s PROTECTOR RG Mk1, and has also been selected by Belgian Defence and the Australian Defence Force. This represents another important milestone in the 10-year strategic relationship between the two companies, and adds to the strong investment GA-ASI is making in world-leading UK industries.
“We value our long relationship with GKN Aerospace as a strategic supplier of critical aerospace subsystems to support our global supply chain,” explained Tommy Dunehew, VP of International Strategic Development for GA-ASI. “We are pleased to expand this relationship with composite structures manufactured in the UK. This will mean that not only the RAF’s PROTECTOR will have UK-manufactured tails, but the global MQ-9B fleet will also benefit from tails manufactured in the UK.”
GA-ASI and GKN Aerospace had previously entered into a pre-production contract, under which GA-ASI provided the required engineering technical data and tooling, and GKN Aerospace developed their manufacturing processes and produced demonstrator parts. Under this latest agreement, GKN Aerospace will begin full-rate production of the V-tails in the UK to support MQ-9B production.
GKN Aerospace has been a global supplier to GA-ASI’s MQ-9 programme for a decade, with the strategic partnership on GA-ASI’s world-leading RPAS starting in 2010. Activities began with the design and build of the ‘fit and forget’ fuel bladder system in the UK, followed by production in the USA. Today, GKN Aerospace manufactures a range of products, including the lightweight landing gear system, which it produces in the Netherlands.
“We have ambitious plans to grow our defence business and this is an important milestone for GKN Aerospace, and especially the Cowes facility, paving the way for continued growth in the UK for advanced aerostructures manufacturing. GA-ASI is the market leader in RPAS, while GKN Aerospace is a market and technology leader in advanced aerostructures, special products and lightweight technologies. Our long-term collaboration continues to demonstrate the strong commitment the two companies share,” observes Krisstie Kondrotis, President of GKN Aerospace’s Defence business.