General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has installed the first V-tail onto an MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) destined for the UK Royal Air Force (RAF).

The advanced composite V-tails are manufactured by GKN Aerospace as part of a strategic partnership with GA-ASI.

GKN Aerospace shipped the first V-tail from its facility in Cowes, UK, to GA-ASI in Poway, California, US.

Notably, RAF is procuring 16 MQ-9B aircraft for Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions. Once they enter service, the RPAs will be known as Protectors.

GA-ASI International Strategic Development vice-president Robert Schoeffling said: “Our companies have worked together for many years, and we’re thrilled to have GKN Aerospace as a strategic supplier for MQ-9B.

“V-tails from GKN Aerospace are not only for the RAF’s Protector, but the global MQ-9B fleet will use these tails manufactured in the UK as well.”

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UK Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) Remotely Piloted Air Systems Delivery Team Leader Michelle Sanders said: “This milestone demonstrates the continued progress being made on this important programme which will provide the RAF with a cutting-edge capability.

“As well as equipping the UK Armed Forces for operations now and into the future, this key programme promotes prosperity in the UK and supports highly-skilled jobs.”

Earlier this month, the US State Department approved a $700m possible foreign military sale (FMS) of Ballistic Missile Defense Radar (BMDR) and other associated equipment to the UK.