Aircrew training on Protector RG Mk1, the Royal Air Force’s new Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) has commenced in the United States. Undertaken by 54 Squadron at the GA-ASI Flight Test & Training Center (FTTC) in Grand Forks, North Dakota, students will learn to fly and operate the aircraft which has a wingspan of 79 feet and will carry UK-made Paveway bombs and Brimstone missiles. The course will see the first pilots, sensor operators, and mission intelligence coordinators (MICs) qualify to operate Protector, 16 of which have been ordered by the Royal Air Force to replace its MQ-9A Reaper aircraft.
“I am delighted to see our first cohort of Protector crews commence training on this phenomenal platform. Reaper has been at the core of RAF combat operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East for almost two decades, demonstrating the utility and effectiveness of RPAS in the modern battlefield. The increased capability, flexibility and lethality Protector brings will see a step change in how we support UK Defence,” Air Commodore Simon Strasdin RAF ISTAR Force Commander said.
Based on the revolutionary MQ-9B SkyGuardian®, Protector RG Mk1 is the next generation of RPAS, delivering persistent Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) around the globe. Protector is designed to fly via SATCOM for up to 40 hours in all types of weather and safely integrate into civil airspace, enabling joint forces and civil authorities. The aircraft is outfitted with the revolutionary Lynx® Multi-mode Radar, an advanced electro-optical/infrared sensor, and automatic takeoff and landing, and features a longer wingspan than its predecessors at 79 feet (24m).
The new training follows the graduation earlier this year of the first Royal Air Force Protector Technicians who will maintain the aircraft and its systems. Aircrew training, which comprises of 12 weeks of both simulation and live flying, will focus on the skills required to operate Protector and its equipment, including real-time exploitation of intelligence involving the Multi-Spectral Targeting System and Synthetic Aperture Radar. The MICs, who undertake a six-week course, will also learn how to operate the Mission Intelligence Station (MIS). Equipped with a suite of advanced equipment and precision strike weapons.