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UK Protector surveillance UAV begins trials

24th October 2023 - 15:59 GMT | by The Shephard News Team in London


The RAF initiated a programme to replace the MQ-9A with the enhanced MQ-9B SkyGuardian. (Photo: RAF/UK Crown Copyright)

A new uncrewed Royal Air Force aircraft, capable of global surveillance operations, will begin trials in the UK this week.

The first of 16 remotely piloted MQ-9B Protector UAV has arrived at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, UK, to commence a series of trials and tests before entering service with the RAF.

‘Equipped with a suite of surveillance equipment, the Protector aircraft will bring a critical global surveillance capability for the UK, all while being remotely piloted from RAF Waddington,’ the MoD noted in a 23 October statement.

The first phase of tests, beginning this week, will involve ground testing of the satellite links and taxi procedures, as well as take-off and landing trials. This will also incorporate a circuit above RAF Waddington.

In 2015, the RAF initiated a programme to replace the MQ-9A with the enhanced MQ-9B SkyGuardian, designated as the Protector RG1

After several delays, on 15 July 2020, the then Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, announced the MoD had signed a £65 million (US$78.2 million) contract with GA-ASI for the UK's first three MQ-9B Protector aircraft.

The contract contained an option to build 13 more aircraft and four ground control stations. About year later, the UK exercised this contract during a visit to GKN Aerospace (GKNA). The MoD, who signed the contract with GA-ASI, said it was worth £195 million (US$268.3 million).

The Protector will conduct land and maritime surveillance, counter-terrorism and support to UK civil authorities in search and rescue missions.

Based on Shephard Defence Insight reports, the first units will be expected to enter service in mid-2024. As stated by the MoD in a contract notification to the UAV's entry into service, the Protector would be in service until ‘the mid-2030s’, giving the platform a decade-long lifespan.

The Shephard News Team


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