RAF Will Assist with Demonstrations and Support
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA‑ASI) will use a company-owned SkyGuardian remotely-piloted aircraft (RPA) to Great Britain later this year, to undertake a series of operational capability demonstrations for NATO allies, including the Netherlands. The UK’s PROTECTOR programme is a derivative of SkyGuardian, with a range of British modifications: the Royal Air Force (RAF) will be supporting the visit.
The GA-ASI aircraft will be configured with maritime capability, including a multi-mode maritime surface search radar with inverse synthetic aperture radar imaging mode, an automatic identification system receiver, and a high-definition, full-motion video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras. This will build on previous GA-ASI demonstrations showcasing the unmanned advantage, which include the transatlantic flight of SkyGuardian in 2018, maritime demonstrations in Greece in 2019 and last year’s validation flights in Japan.
“GA-ASI will work closely with multiple European allies to demonstrate the capabilities of MQ-9B, including in the maritime environment, and how MQ-9B can complement and team within a networked environment with other national assets,” said Tommy Dunehew, VP of International Strategic Development at GA-ASI.
The series of civilian and military capability events is expected to kick off in July at RAF Waddington and will culminate with the platform’s participation in the UK-led Joint Warrior exercise, that will showcase how maritime capabilities can be integrated with other air, surface and land platforms. SkyGuardian flights will further develop GA-ASI’s revolutionary ‘Detect and Avoid’ capability, which will enable PROTECTOR to fly in unsegregated UK airspace. It will also assist RAF Waddington, the future home of the RAF PROTECTOR fleet, to best prepare to integrate the new aircraft into its daily operations.
MQ-9B represents the next generation of RPA system, having demonstrated airborne endurance of more than 40 hours, automatic take-offs and landings under SATCOM-only control and the ‘Detect and Avoid’ system. Its development is the result of a company-funded effort to deliver an RPA that can meet the stringent airworthiness certification requirements of various military and civil authorities.
MQ-9B has garnered significant interest from customers throughout the world. In addition to being selected for the RAF’s PROTECTOR programme, SkyGuardian was selected by the Australian Defence Force for its Project Air 7003 requirement, and the Belgian Ministry of Defense has signed a contract for the type.