General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, California, has been awarded an $81,866,402 cost-plus-fixed-fee and firm-fixed-price modification (P00014) to contract FA8620-18-C-2009 for the U.K. MQ-9B Protector program. This modification provides for the design, development, integration and component-level testing of additional capabilities being added to the baseline program. Work will be performed in Poway, California, and is expected to be completed Aug. 31, 2021. Total cumulative face value of the contract is not-to-exceed $174,889,865. Foreign Military Sales funds in the amount of $71,563,692 are being obligated at the time of award. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity.
The MQ-9B is the latest variant of the MQ-9 series RPAS currently operated by the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, France, and soon Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium. MQ-9B adds several key enhancements to the proven MQ-9 series allowing for better performance, lower operating and sustainment costs and access to all classes of airspace. The Royal Air Force (RAF) is acquiring SkyGuardian as part of its Protector RG Mk1 program and is scheduled for first delivery in the early 2020s. Belgium also selected SkyGuardian for its defence needs. The RPA is being considered as an option for the Australian Defence Force, who chose GA-ASI to supply the RPA system for Project Air 7003.
MQ-9B is the world’s only RPAS certifiable to fly in non-segregated airspace. As part of the certification effort, MQ-9B is provisioned with a GA-ASI-developed Detect and Avoid (DAA) system. The DAA system consists of a Due Regard Radar (air-to-air radar), coupled with a Traffic alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II) and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B).The first-ever trans-Atlantic flight of a Medium-altitude, Long-endurance (MALE) RPAS was accomplished July 2018, in commemoration of the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) centenary celebration (RAF100). SkyGuardian flew from Grand Forks, North Dakota over Canada to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, UK, covering 3,760 nautical miles in 24 hours.
This is an unprecedented level of endurance which enables the MQ-9B to provide persistent Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) around the clock with an operating cost well below most manned platforms. MQ-9B has a range of over 6,000 nautical miles and is equipped with nine hard-points for sensor or weapons carriage with over 2,100 kg (4,000 lbs.) of available payload. The cold weather engine start capability allows ground operations down to -41°C. MQ-9B is equipped with an Electro-expulsive De-icing system (EEDS) for wing leading edges, anti-ice heated engine inlet, heated pitot tube and static ports, and lightning protection.