MQ-9B Protector for the UK
eneral Atomics Aeronautical Systems has been awarded Foreign Military Sales contract by the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Centre for the United Kingdom MQ-9B Protector unmanned aircraft system programme, which provides for integration and component level testing for UK- specific enhancements to support the MQ-9B Protector programme. GAASI performed the first flight of the MQ-9B configuration less than two years ago, and the Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) has continued to meet a series of key qualification milestones.
Other important MQ-9B milestones were achieved in 2017, including the first FAA-approved flight for a company-owned RPA through non-segregated airspace without a ‘chase aircraft,’ when the RPA flew from Yuma, Arizona to Gray Butte, California in August 2017. Upcoming aircraft qualification milestones include lightning protection tests, which are expected within the next 60 days. A weaponised variant of the system is being acquired by the Royal Air Force (RAF) under the UK’s MQ-9B Protector programme. The MQ-9B Protector can fly in excess of 40 hours with airspeed up to 210 knots, reach altitudes of more than 40,000 feet, and carry 4750lbs (2159 kg) of external payload.