General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has completed a series of system-level tests for the new Protector RG Mk1 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).

The Protector RPA is the British Royal Air Force’s (RAF) new version of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian.

The aircraft was put through full-scale static (FSS) strength, high-intensity radiated field (HIRF) and environmental testing.

GA-ASI conducted most of the tests by using internal research and development funding, with the RAF and US Air Force backing crucial elements of the HIRF testing.

Assessing the strength of all the major structures in the aircraft, the FSS test comprised several ‘stress tests’ that assessed the complete fuselage, wings, tails and landing gear.

Protector RPA’s environmental testing was conducted at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base while the HIRF testing occurred at the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects Test Facility at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River.

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GA-ASI noted that the test programme also included the Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation on Ordnance testing for the load-out of Protector weapons.

RAF group captain and Air ISTAR Programmes director Shaun Gee said: “It’s exciting to see the progress of the Protector Programme.

“GA-ASI has provided support, not only in the testing of the aircraft but in developing this game-changing RPA platform.

“GA-ASI provided a company MQ-9B over this past summer and operated it from RAF bases in the UK to help us get acquainted with its operational capabilities ahead of the first delivery of Protector.”

In July 2020, the UK MoD signed a £65m production contract for the first three Protector RPA. GA-ASI won a contract to deliver 13 more Protector RG Mk1 RPA to RAF in July this year.

The first Protector is expected to complete its test and evaluation programme late next year and is scheduled to arrive in the UK in 2023.