Acceptance Test Procedures (ATP) for the first Protector RG Mk1 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) system was completed on Aug. 26, 2022. Completion of ATP allows for the official hand-over of the aircraft to the UK Royal Air Force (RAF), the launch customer of the MQ-9B RPA system developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI). Protector is a specially configured model of MQ-9B, designed to meet the unique requirements of the RAF. ATP includes all inspections and tests performed on the hardware in operation for the aircraft and in conformance with the functional specification and technical requirements.
Air Vice Marshal Simon Ellard, Director Combat Air at Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) said,”It is a great pleasure to accept the official handover of the first Protector aircraft on behalf of the MOD, following the successful completion of Acceptance Test Procedures.”
RAF Air Commodore Alex Hicks said,”The acceptance of the first Protector aircraft is a significant and exciting milestone in the delivery of this world-class capability to the Royal Air Force. The aircraft will be used to train RAF technicians how to maintain the capability, prior to the arrival of the first aircraft in the UK next year.”
ATP was performed jointly by the UK Ministry of Defence and GA-ASI following the completion of the aircraft production and acceptance procedures. Over the past two months, ATP has been performed at GA-ASI’s Desert Horizon flight operations facility in El Mirage, Calif. The aircraft will remain in the U.S. to support maintenance and pilot training. ATP was also completed on the first two sets of Portable Pre-flight and Post-flight Equipment (P3Es). P3E is ground support equipment that replaces the legacy Ruggedized Aircraft Maintenance Test Station (RAMTS) used to support MQ-9A. It is used for ground testing and maintenance operations with a direct-connect to the aircraft.
MQ-9B represents the next generation of RPA systems, having demonstrated airborne endurance of more than 40 hours in certain configurations, automatic takeoffs and landings under SATCOM-only control, as well as a GA-ASI developed Detect and Avoid system. Its development is the result of a company-funded effort to deliver an RPA that can meet the stringent airworthiness certification requirements of various military and civil authorities. MQ-9B has garnered significant interest from customers throughout the world. After the UK Ministry of Defence selected MQ-9B SkyGuardian® for its Protector program, the Belgian Ministry of Defense signed a contract for SkyGuardian. Later this year, the Japan Coast Guard will begin operations using the MQ-9B in the SeaGuardian® configuration.