The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has ordered 13 Protector RG Mk1 Remotely Piloted Air Systems (RPAS) to add to its initial order for three Protector RPAS, establishing 16 as the new total of Protectors to be delivered to the UK MoD.
A £195 million contract for a further 13 cutting-edge Protector aircraft has been signed, the UK MoD announced in a press release.
“Our fleet of 16 Protector aircraft will provide the Royal Air Force (RAF) with a vast global reach allowing us to monitor the battlespace for hours on end,” said Jeremy Quin, UK Minister for Defense Procurement.
GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian is the baseline system being configured for the RAF as the Protector RG Mk1. It includes X-band satellite communications (SATCOM) and support for UK weapon systems, as well as the aircraft’s onboard sensors such as its electro-optical sensor ball and Lynx Multi-mode Radar.
In July 2020, the UK MoD and GA-ASI announced a production contract for the first three Protector RPAS. In September 2020, GA-ASI announced the completion of the first Protector-configured MQ-9B, which is now supporting system testing as part of a combined UK MoD, U.S. Air Force and GA-ASI test team.
Known as UK1, this first Protector will be delivered to the MoD later this year, but will remain in the U.S. to complete the Royal Air Force’s test and evaluation program before moving to its UK home base in 2022.
When Protector enters service in 2024, UK Defence will acquire the ability to operate globally with this highly adaptable platform,” said Air Commodore Richard Barrow, Senior Responsible Owner for the RAF Protector Programme.
The partnership between GA-ASI and the UK MoD also involves UK aerospace and defense industries. One example is GKN Aerospace, which is manufacturing the composite V-tails for the MQ-9B at its in Cowes, the Isle of Wight.