General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has demonstrated the operational capabilities of its MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) during an international flight between the UK and the Netherlands.
A company-owned MQ-9B flew from British Royal Air Force (RAF) Waddington across the North Sea to Leeuwarden airbase in the Netherlands.
The two-day series of flights was conducted in cooperation with the UK and Netherlands airspace authorities, the RAF, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF).
RNLAF 306 squadron commander lieutenant-colonel Boudewijn Roddenhof said: “Today’s flight is a major milestone for us. It demonstrates the ability of the MQ-9 to operate in our airspace and validates the procedures for air traffic control.
“It also familiarises the air traffic controllers with remotely piloted aircraft, which is an opportunity we have not had before.”
The latest flight is part of a maritime demonstration series that began last month and continues throughout this month.
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It proved several operational capabilities of the MQ-9B, including the platform’s advanced maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, Detect and Avoid System (DAAS), as well as interoperability with Nato partners.
The total foreign military sales (FMS) agreement, which Netherlands and GA-ASI signed in 2018, includes four MQ-9A Block 5 and four mobile ground control stations (GCSs), along with related support equipment.
The first MQ-9A RPA is expected to be delivered to the Netherlands later this year.
The new MQ-9A Reapers will be operated by the RNLAF 306 squadron.
GA-ASI International Strategic Development vice-president Robert Schoeffling said: “We appreciate the international cooperation we’ve received from the RAF, the RNLAF and civil aviation authorities such as the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
“Our MQ-9B series is built and equipped to meet certification standards that will allow it to fly in non-segregated airspace.”
SeaGuardian will now participate in the UK-led Joint Warrior exercise to showcase its capabilities when integrated with other air, surface and land platforms.
In November last year, GA-ASI delivered the final two MQ-9A Block 5 RPA and a ground control station (GCS) to the Spanish Air Force (SAF).