A small team of Royal Air Force personnel based in the United States is preparing the way for the introduction into service of the UK’s new remotely piloted air system, the MQ-9B Protector, say the RAF.
The Protector Combined Test Team (CTT) comprises experienced pilots, sensor operators and engineers from the Royal Air Force, industry partners and the US Air Force who are coordinating the testing and evaluation of the Protector system, which will replace the MQ-9 Reaper in RAF service.
Wing Commander Iain Hutchinson, Head of the test team, said:
“Protector represents a step change in RPAS capability and all of us in the CTT are genuinely excited about bringing the platform into frontline service with the Royal Air Force.
Reaper has been very successful and continues to deliver on operations in the Middle East. Protector promises to expand upon Reaper’s long-range surveillance and precision strike capabilities. By complementing existing and future ISTAR and Combat Air capabilities such as the F-35 Lightning II, it will meet the needs of UK Defence worldwide for decades to come.”
The UK is investing in an initial 16 Protector aircraft, manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. An important aspect of the work of the CTT will be to ensure that Protector complies with national and international airspace and safety regulations.
The RAF say this will be the first aircraft of its kind to be certified in this way, allowing it to operate safely and effectively in a wide variety of environments and locations, including support of humanitarian relief operations.