The UK and Belgium have agreed a Bilateral Statement of Intent (SoI) to explore collaboration on the MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) which both nations are acquiring.
“The Royal Air Force and Belgian Air Force will explore opportunities to train, maintain and work together on this game changing aircraft using its cutting-edge sensors and systems to protect national, NATO and European security,” Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston said.
Known as Protector RG Mk1 in the UK, MQ-9B is the first RPAS to be designed, built and certified against stringent NATO and UK Safety Certification standards equivalent to piloted aircraft to allow flight in unsegregated civilian airspace, Royal Air Force said in a release August 18.
Last month Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced a contract to build the first three UK Protectors with an option for 13 more in due course.
Belgium is procuring four MQ-9Bs for its defence needs.
MQ-9B is GA-ASI’s most advanced RPAS. It can attain maximum airspeed of 210 KTAS, maximum altitude of 40,000ft and can remain in the air for about 40 hours.
GA-ASI named its MQ-9B aircraft SkyGuardian, and the maritime surveillance variant SeaGuardian, which is fitted with a multimode 360-degree field-of-regard Maritime Patrol Radar and optional sonobuoy capability.
MQ-9B development began in 2014 as a company-funded program to deliver an RPAS to meet NATO’s stringent airworthiness type-certification standard (STANAG 4671). STANAG certification will enable SkyGuardian to operate in civil airspace and better perform border patrol, fire detection and firefighting support, maritime patrol, and resource monitoring missions. MQ-9B is provisioned for the GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid System (DAAS) to enhance safety of operations in civil and military airspace. The MQ-9B is built for all-weather performance with lightning protection, a damage tolerant airframe, and a de-icing system.