The British Royal Air Force (RAF) is set to introduce the remotely piloted air system (RPAS), the MQ-9B Protector, into service.
Named the Protector Combined Test Team (CTT) and based in the US, the team comprises experienced pilots, sensor operators and engineers from the RAF, industry partners, and the US Air Force (USAF) personnel.
The team is currently coordinating the testing and assessment of the new MQ-9B Protector system, which has been designed to replace the MQ-9 Reaper currently in service with the British RAF.
RAF wing commander Iain Hutchinson said: “Reaper has been very successful and continues to deliver on operations in the Middle East.
“Protector promises to expand upon Reaper’s long-range surveillance and precision strike capabilities.
“By complementing existing and future ISTAR and Combat Air capabilities such as the F-35 Lightning II, it will meet the needs of UK defence worldwide for decades to come.”
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The UK Government has placed an order for the procurement of an initial 16 units of the latest MQ-9B Protector aircraft, which are being built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI).
As part of the project, the CTT will be responsible for ensuring that the Protector aircraft complies with national and international airspace and safety regulations.
This will allow the aircraft to operate safely and effectively in different environments and locations, in addition to providing support for humanitarian relief operations.
The MQ-9B Protector is a highly modular aircraft, which can be easily configured with a wide range of payloads in order to meet mission requirements.
The aircraft is equipped with an advanced Detect and Avoid (DAA) system, including space, weight, and power provisions to allow for the retrofitting of an airborne Due Regard Radar (DRR) to support operations in the non-cooperative airspace.