General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) is set to demonstrate a SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) aircraft from Royal Air Force (RAF) Waddington this summer.

The SkyGuardian aircraft will serve as a pre-production example of the new Protector RPAS. It will arrive at Waddington in July.

In addition to undertaking a series of capability demonstrations for Nato allies, including the Netherlands, SkyGuardian will also participate in the multi-national military exercise ‘Joint Warrior’.

GA-ASI International Strategic Development vice-president Tommy Dunehew said: “GA-ASI will work closely with multiple European allies to demonstrate the capabilities of MQ-9B, including in the maritime environment, and how MQ-9B can complement and team within a networked environment with other national assets.”

In July, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) signed a £65m contract for its first three Protector RPAS.

Signed with GA-ASI, the contract includes three ground stations and associated support equipment, as well as the option to purchase another 13 aircraft and four ground control stations and support equipment.

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Projected to enter service in 2024, Protector will undertake intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations out of RAF Waddington.

It is expected to replace the Reaper RPAS.

RAF air commodore Richard Barrow said: “The return of SkyGuardian, which will be known as Protector in RAF service in 2023, to the UK this summer offers an exciting glimpse of the future.

“Protector will be able to fly for up to 40 hours in civil airspace, meaning it will be able to deliver an array of military or civil support missions.”