The demonstrations began August 25th and ended with the completion of Exercise Joint Warrior on September 30th.

During Joint Warrior, a demonstration took place using the SeaGuardian and a British P-8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, showing SeaGuardian’s ability to compliment and support Anti-Submarine Warfare tasking, which included tracking, monitoring and reporting of sonobuoys.

“The flights showcased the many operational capabilities of the MQ-9B, including the platform’s advanced maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Detect and Avoid System (DAAS), industry-leading endurance and interoperability with NATO partners. During Joint Warrior, a demonstration of Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) took place using the SeaGuardian and an RAF P-8, showing SeaGuardian’s ability to compliment and support Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) tasking, which included tracking, monitoring and reporting of sonobuoys.

The demonstrations were initially based out of RAF Waddington before moving to RAF Lossiemouth to support Joint Warrior. While based at RAF Waddington, one flight saw SeaGuardian fly to Leeuwarden Air Base, taking the RPA into Netherlands airspace and proving a seamless transition between national air traffic regions, while testing airspace operational procedures. This multi-day demonstration, which took place Sept. 1-2, displayed SeaGuardian’s maritime surveillance capabilities in support of international allies. The Royal Netherlands Air Force has ordered four MQ-9A RPA and the first is expected to be delivered to Leeuwarden later this year. SeaGuardian returned to RAF Waddington at the conclusion of the event.”

This is something I’ve suggested in the past.

Protector drones could augment Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft

“The MQ-9B is the first RPA to be allowed to fly so extensively in UK-controlled airspace,” said Mark Watson, Head of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) Service Integration for NATS.

“This moves us a long way towards same day notification for ‘file and fly’ privileges as an Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC)-capable platform.”

A large set of airworthiness artifacts have been reviewed by the UK Civil Airworthiness Authority, who have approved MQ-9B for operations in unsegregated, uncontrolled airspace for the first time based on the suite of airspace deconfliction technologies and extensive documentation provided in the Safety Case.

SeaGuardian is the maritime version of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian. As the launch customer, RAF has ordered 16 aircraft in their configuration, which they have named the Protector RG Mk1 RPA systems.

The Protector is a derivative of the SkyGuardian, featuring an array of customer modifications.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
60 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
eclipse
eclipse
26 days ago

So are we getting any SeaProtectors then?

Angus
Angus
26 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

Now having a couple of squadrons of them would be a major plus as MRR could come back in and the North Atlantic monitored around the clock which our tiny fleet of P8’s could never hope to do. Lets get at least 8 based both up north and down in Cornwall so our waters are covered as they should be in this day and age.

eclipse
eclipse
26 days ago
Reply to  Angus

One Protector costs around 100m USD, and I don’t think SeaGuardian will be much more expensive. If we want to patrol properly, we should get another 16 which isn’t entirely out of the question.

Sean
Sean
25 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

That puts the Protector in the same price bracket as an F35B, I think that might be on the high side.

Paul42
Paul42
26 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

Good question? This one was initially flown from Waddington and later Lossiemouth, was it a drone the RAF actually owns?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
26 days ago
Reply to  Paul42

No, I don’t think so.

RobW
RobW
26 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

It seems we are assessing them doesn’t it. A squadron of these, say 12 or even 16, would make sense of our P8 numbers.

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
26 days ago
Reply to  RobW

They are talking about Protector, not a new UAV. Protector has maritime capability.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
26 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

Let’s hope so if they prove to be a genuine force multiplier and not a fig leaf.

expat
expat
26 days ago

We already have MQ-9s so could these be covert to support the P8s. Appear to be quite a surplus of MQ-9’s globally with the USAF retiring them also.

eclipse
eclipse
26 days ago
Reply to  expat

Those are older Reapers; the Protectors we are getting have the same shape but have much newer technology, longer endurance and more weapons capability. Would be cheaper to get new drones.

Daniel
Daniel
26 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

One of the key advantages of the new kit is that it has all the required safety systems for it to be certified to fly in controlled airspace (i.e. from the UK and across the rest of Western Europe). Trying to use Reaper in an MPA role in the UK wouldn’t be easy given this.

expat
expat
26 days ago
Reply to  Daniel

But reading the article the NL has order just that, 4 Reapers. Its not supposed to replace the P-8 in an MPA role. the P-8 drops the sonar buoys the MQ-9 qives you the enhanced persistence and you’d bring other assets in if a threat was detected.

Daniel
Daniel
26 days ago
Reply to  expat

I would be surprised if the RNLAF intends to operate those aircraft in a domestic maritime patrol role. The MQ-9B was specifically developed to comply with European flight regulations in order to boost sales to European countries, nowhere in the article or in the linked source does it specify exactly how the RNLAF intend to use the aircraft other than as general ISR platforms, they have apparently been ordered without any weapons. I agree that the capabilities of Reaper make it ideal for assisting with maritime patrol, I just believe that the realities of European flight regulation (a necessity on… Read more »

expat
expat
26 days ago
Reply to  Daniel

The reality of modern aviation is that commercial pilots on a normal flight the computer will fly the aircraft to the flight plan. So reality even in Europe crowded skies we’re ferried around by computers. The Reaper will also fly largely on auto pilot via way points. The plus of the MQ-9B is collision avoidance and automation to avoid bad weather. The latter can be mitigated by only switching it for a P-8 if weather permits. Collision avoidance would need to be retro fitted.

Daniel
Daniel
26 days ago
Reply to  expat

Well you do make a compelling argument, either way I am in favour of the Reapers being retained to bolster numbers even if it is only for out of area operations. I must admit though I have no idea what the rated flight hours for these aircraft are or how close the RAF fleet is to reaching those limits. I can only assume that the differences between Protector and Reaper are not large enough to incur extra costs associated with maintaining two “different” aircraft types as with C-130 and A400M.

expat
expat
26 days ago
Reply to  eclipse

Yep but NL has order 4 MQ-9 for RPA role.

Pete
Pete
26 days ago
Reply to  expat

Wonder about merits of keeping the old stuff simply for when a hot conflict breaks out and using them simply as a trip wire to provoke a reaction and expose / deplete some air defence capability.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
26 days ago
Reply to  Pete

I think that is one of our problems. Western govs tend to assume a war won’t break out and equip accordingly with bare minimum numbers wise.

BB85
BB85
26 days ago

I don’t see any logic on scraping the reapers either. They will be more than capable of flying over Syria and Mali taking out insurgents for a while yet. China and Russia operate 100s if not 1000s of drones so unless we intend to procure 100s of these loyal wingmen Europe as a whole is lagging behind in this capability.

expat
expat
26 days ago

The other problem is the top brass wouldn’t want hand me downs so to speak.

Lusty
Lusty
26 days ago

Too true. It won’t be long before this fact hits someone in the face with all the force and grace of a rusty shovel.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
26 days ago
Reply to  Pete

The difficultly of keeping yet another version relevant and teams trained to use them. It all costs money. In the old days you could put a howitzer in a shed with an oiled cloth on each end of it, cover it with a tarp and it would be good for X years. Now you have to fire up the electronics regularly. If you don’t things like capacitors leak the electrolyte eats the PCB and you discover the thing simply doesn’t work. Keep focus on the current stuff. Hopefully we will see these augmenting P8. With US and Norway + other… Read more »

expat
expat
26 days ago

But oddly the private companies providing aggressors do this all the time, provide small numbers of older airframes for the red air role. You think they would just by new airframes if it wasn’t cost effective. Go figure.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
26 days ago
Reply to  expat

But the aggressors don’t have proper weapons systems or combat level radars.

Generally they are vectored in by a turbo prop with a semi decent radar and a radio!!

So they are much simpler to maintain and don’t really need integrated updates.

Expat
Expat
25 days ago

Hmm not so sure Drakens aggressor fleet looks pretty capable and I know some of the fleet have radars. I’m not advocating would should have converted Reapers just pointing out it could be possible.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
25 days ago
Reply to  Expat

I agree it would be possible.

In the 80′ world of UK defence when we had rows of workshops all staffed with service personnel to fix and build things they needed to be kept busy.

Trouble is that very often that meant keep stuff well past its sell by date so time effort and large amounts of money were spent on things that failed the battle field test.

John Clark
John Clark
26 days ago

It’s certainly a terrific force multiplier, thee more P8’s, (to keep 9 operational), plus a fleet of 12 MQ9B’s and we would have a maritime surveillance capability we haven’t had since the mid 1990’s. They have the ability to be retasked for overland surveillance and strike too, enabling additional resources for the Protector fleet, so a real force multiplier….. It’s an absolute no brainer to be honest. Perhaps the powers that be consider Mosquito can perhaps fill this roll eventually, but it would need some specialised avionics for the roll and I doubt it will have the hugely impressive loitering… Read more »

Lusty
Lusty
26 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Bacon rolls or cheese rolls?

John Clark
John Clark
26 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

Oh, definitely Bacon and cheese roles….😂

Lusty
Lusty
25 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

😂 Apologies, it’s Friday. Time to post up my usual posts of Friday fun. 😉

John Clark
John Clark
25 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

And why not Lusty, have a great weekend mate ..

Last edited 25 days ago by John Clark
Lusty
Lusty
25 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

You too mate!

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
25 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

Lusty Friday’s. I’ll remember this! 😆

Lusty
Lusty
25 days ago

Haha! Just like Lusty’s crystal ball! 😉

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
24 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

What days that then? These should be weekly, Lusty’s Clinic, Lusty’s Surgery, Luaty’s Lucky Dip, and then Lusty’s weekend off! 😆

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
25 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

That amused me too.

Crabfat
Crabfat
26 days ago

A friend of mine has a small warehouse full of certified and unused Boeing 707 spares! Still sells them around the world.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
25 days ago
Reply to  Crabfat

OK, but that was a mass market type that still has cargo and other uses. They were made by the 1000. So I am not surprised there is a great market for bits to keep them flying.

Equally a friend of mine had a very good business supply mainframe parts for obsolete systems to banks in London. Yes really you would be amazed at the junk that the big banks used to run on.

Pete
Pete
25 days ago

Not talking about using them for ongoing surveillance etc….get the good stuff for that…but as new stuff comes in pass the Reaper kit to the reservists….and encourage prior operators and maintenance teams into the reservists. Fire them up once every couple of months. Something really nasty brews up, use them as sacrificial lambs to prob the bad guys in certain high threat environments. Save loosing more precious assets while learning how effective the other sides technology and tactics are.

Anyway, just a view.

P

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
25 days ago
Reply to  Pete

Yes, I agree the way we run the reserves is baffling without kit of their own. They are just a bit more manpower mass rather than a B line. Most of that is because the equipment budget is so stretched and the treasury capital rules mean that retaining things in a warehouse is very expensive. If the kit was revalued to market value at point of handover to reserves it might be a bit more achievable. It was very sad to see the B3 T22’s struck so fast and as newish ships, at the time, they would have had a… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
26 days ago
Reply to  expat

And create yet another unique version certification nightmare?

expat
expat
26 days ago

Not so sure it would be unique the NL has order 4 MQ-9 RPA’s. Plus it was was generic question not necessarily just the UK doing the conversion.

Y Ddraig Goch
Y Ddraig Goch
26 days ago

I’ve come across a couple of these SkyGuardian flights where they have been squawking ADs on FlightRadar 24 & it’s been fascinating to watch. One in particular was right down the spine of the UK through the some of busiest airspace that we have before flying on to the south coast before returning to Lossie. This capability is what particularly separates Protector from Reaper.

Ambivalent Lurker
Ambivalent Lurker
26 days ago

Sea Guardian is essentially a mission kit (the underbelly radar pod and an ALIS ) that is fitted to the MQ9B Sky Guardian/Protector. The GA website shows optional underwing sonarbouy dispensers too but the demonstator doesnt seem to have these yet. The ability to pair the system with, and operate this from a Poseidon looks very interesting indeed. With the growing number of P9’s in the RAF, Norwegian and German air forces etc, there is no doubt why General Atomics are showing of the demonstrator aircraft in Europe., they are chasing sales and the RAF as the launch customer for… Read more »

Steve M
Steve M
26 days ago

If SeaGuardians have Sonobouys would be useful to patrol GIUK line responding to SOSUS detections to lock down and track, P-8 would then need less time to localise and prosecute. Of course ideal world we would have kept U class subs to patrol GIUK and North Sea allowing nuc boats to range further into deep water with MPA’s

Quentin Drury
Quentin Drury
25 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

Like your thinking. It’s not too late to get a small fleet of diesel subs and a few more P8s into the fleet.

Quentin Drury
Quentin Drury
25 days ago
Reply to  Quentin Drury

I’m wondering down here in Aus if they might also go for a mixed sub fleet if the new nuke subs are a long way off. Out of curiosity, does the USN have a mixed sub fleet?

klonkie
klonkie
25 days ago
Reply to  Quentin Drury

I don’t believe the USN have operated conventional subs since the mid 1980 ( 3x Barbels class).

Steve M
Steve M
25 days ago
Reply to  Quentin Drury

Do deal with Aussie’s to build some new/updated Collins Class SSK with them getting help with some new Astute’s 🙂 extra 4/5 P-8’s backed up with some SeaGuardians (wonder if they could be fitted with a MAD under 1 wing and buoys under the other?) fly patrol if get mag detect when camera dont show surface contact then drop buoys. if sold indication P-8 / SSK can move in

Last edited 25 days ago by Steve M
Quentin D63
Quentin D63
25 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

Now you’re talkin’…plus a bonus Astute for the RN… unfortunately we have zero influence with the powers that be. Lol 😁

Bob
Bob
26 days ago

As others have said, this would make sense of the low number of P8s purchased.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
26 days ago

I read an article recently (The Atlantic I think) that was questioning whether or not the SSN would still be the apex predator in twenty years time – suggesting Australia may be backing the wrong horse. Not sure I agreed with it, but some of the technology that is being developed could potentially add extra constraints on SSN operations. The one that caught my eye the most was a project the US is working on, basically, persistant floating sono buoys that can be deployed rapidly pretty much anywhere. I got the impression they are larger than conventional sono buoys with… Read more »

Expat
Expat
25 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

I read and article suggesting Carriers were no longer viable. They advocated nuclear subs with stand off weapons. Subs aren’t visible but that means you can’t make a political point by sending one to a region. I certainly think our next SSN needs more launch capabilities, just a handful of TLAM is not going to cut it in the future.

Meirion x
Meirion x
24 days ago
Reply to  Expat

SSN’s are the modern equivalent of the great battleships of the past. Their role is to sink surface warships and other enemy subs! So they need to be hidden from view as much as possible. To launch TLAM’s is the role of a SSGN.

Last edited 24 days ago by Meirion x
Steven Alfred Rake
Steven Alfred Rake
25 days ago

An idea put on the table a few years ago was the use of airships as a mother ship for a fleet of drones that could be stationed over the mid Atlantic region so that there could be drones capable of dropping sonar buoys and with the capability of launching torpedoes if a hostile Sub/surface ship was detected. I’m not sure if the idea was take seriously or just filed under miscellaneous!!

James William Fennell
James William Fennell
24 days ago

The maritime configuation is a plug and play kit for the MQ-9B – i’m sure we will get some.

George Parker
George Parker
17 days ago

Some of these would compliment the P8’s nicely and perhaps even Spirit Mosquito when it is eventually in service. Is there any planned date for that.