The UK MoD has exercised the clause in its contract with GA-ASI to build and deliver 13 additional PROTECTOR RG Mk1 UAVs that had previously been identified as options, the company has announced. The initial contract was for three PROTECTORS, establishing 16 as the new total of aircraft to be delivered.
GA-ASI’s MQ-9B SkyGuardian is the baseline system being configured for the RAF as the PROTECTOR RG Mk1. It includes X-band satellite communications and support for UK weapon systems as well as the aircraft’s onboard sensors such as its electro-optical sensor ball and LYNX multi-mode radar.
In July 2020, the UK MoD and GA-ASI announced a production contract for the first three PROTECTORs. In September 2020, GA-ASI announced the completion of the first PROTECTOR configured MQ-9B, which is now supporting system testing as part of a combined UK MoD, US Air Force and GA-ASI test team. Known as UK1, this first PROTECTOR will be delivered to the MoD later this year, but will remain in the US to complete the RAF’s test and evaluation programme before moving to its UK home base in 2022.