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UK MoD to Pay £100M to Test Performance of Protector UAV

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£100m Boost for Cutting-Edge Protector Aircraft

(Source: UK Ministry of Defence; issued Sept. 11, 2019)

The Ministry of Defence has signed a contract worth approximately £100 million to test the performance of the UK’s ground-breaking Protector aircraft.

The world-class Protector will be the first remotely controlled aircraft capable of attacking targets anywhere in world while being operated from their home base in RAF Waddington.

This contract will see General Atomics test the aircraft to its limit and report back on its performance in advance of the aircraft’s introduction to the frontline in 2024.

Speaking at the DSEi conference today the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, said: “Protector exemplifies the benefits that military-industry partnering can bring. Through the embedding of experienced RAF operators in the programme, we are helping bring to life a world-leading capability which will provide the RAF with a remotely-piloted air system that can operate worldwide in unsegregated airspace.”

Defence Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Our intelligence-gathering and surveillance capabilities will be critical to staying ahead of our adversaries as we enter an era dominated by grey-zone warfare.

“This contract represents a welcome step towards our world-beating Protector aircraft reaching the frontline, giving us the upper-hand against our adversaries.”
Replacing the Reaper aircraft, Protector will be the world’s first certified Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS), meaning it can operate in civilian airspace. This is possible due to the aircraft’s ground-breaking Detect and Avoid system which draws on enhanced sensors to avoid other aircraft.

Protector will be able to fly consistently for up to 40 hours, offering the RAF vastly improved armed Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability. The aircraft will be deployed across the full spectrum of operations, including ISTAR, search and rescue, flood prevention or disaster response missions.

Sir Simon Bollom, CEO of Defence Equipment and Support, said: “Our partnership with General Atomics is allowing us to explore cutting-edge technology to deliver capability to the RAF which is world class.

“These trials with Protector show that we are determined to push the boundaries and ensure that our military personnel have the capability to respond robustly to a range of constantly evolving threats on the battlefield.”

The aircraft will use enhanced data links and carry next-generation, low collateral, precision strike weapons, including the UK-made Brimstone missile (MBDA) and Paveway IV Laser Guided Bomb (Raytheon UK). The aircraft’s design enables almost unlimited payload options in the future, depending on requirement.

The fleet will also have advanced anti-icing and lightning protection, providing the RAF with unprecedented flexibility to operate in adverse weather conditions.

Protector achieved a historic first last year after a demonstration aircraft flew non-stop from North Dakota to Gloucestershire in a flight that took over just over 20 hours.

The first Protector aircraft will be delivered to the RAF in October 2021. The aircraft will be based at RAF Waddington, which is set to benefit from the planned investment of £93 million to construct a new purpose-built hanger as well new facilities and accommodation for crews.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Given that the United Kingdom has paid for the development of the certifiable Protector UAV, it is not immediately clear why it should have to pay an additional £100 million to test it and ensure it performs to contractual specifications.)


GA-ASI and UK MoD Sign Test and Evaluation Contract for Protector

(Source: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.; issued Sept 11, 2019)

SAN DIEGO --- GA-ASI has signed a Direct Commercial Sale (DCS) contract with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to complete the test and evaluation activities required to certify the Protector RG Mk1 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) system to fly in civil airspace.

The DCS contract also funds additional Protector programme elements, including X-band SATCOM system verification, training material development and logistics planning.

“This completes another important milestone as we work towards the delivery of Protector to the Royal Air Force (RAF),” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI. “We have completed more than 100 qualification test flights using our two company-owned SkyGuardian RPA.”

MQ-9B SkyGuardian is the baseline RPA that will become the Protector RG Mk1 once delivered to the RAF. Delivery is expected in the early 2020s and RAF operators will continue to support evaluation activity for Protector using the two SkyGuardian test aircraft and the Protector cockpit.

“The testing and evaluation phase of the Protector programme is an important element that ensures the safe delivery of this next generation capability,” said RAF Group Captain Lyndon Jones, Protector RG Mk1 Programme Director. “The Royal Air Force will continue its strong relationship with GA-ASI to ensure leading edge and innovative technology, such as Detect and Avoid (DAA), is integrated into Protector.”

The GA-ASI-developed DAA system consists of a Due Regard air-to-air Radar and processor, integrated with Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS II), and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). Protector RG Mk1 is also being built for all-weather performance with lightning protection, damage tolerance, and a de-icing system.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), an affiliate of General Atomics, is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems, including the Predator RPA series and the Lynx Multi-mode Radar. With more than five million flight hours, GA-ASI provides long-endurance, mission-capable aircraft with integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent flight that enables situational awareness and rapid strike.