General Atomics has turned over the first Protector RG Mk1 remotely piloted aircraft system to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The drone’s official transfer took place at the Desert Horizon facility in El Mirage, California, where UK Defence Equipment and Support Combat Air Director Air Vice Marshal Simon Ellard welcomed the aircraft.
“It was a great pleasure to accept the first Protector aircraft off contract on behalf of the MoD,” Ellard said.
“While this aircraft will remain in [the] USA, it will be used to train RAF personnel with UK equipment and will be placed on the UK Military Register.”
The delivery follows the completion of the Protector’s two-month acceptance test procedures led by the company and the defense ministry.
The tests included a series of inspections and evaluations of the drone’s hardware during operations according to the technical requirements and functional specifications.
‘World Class Capability’
The Protector is currently under assessment against rigorous safety certification standards of the UK and NATO for it to achieve full operational clearance in civilian airspace.
The aircraft is expected to be delivered in 2023 at the UK Royal Air Force Base in Waddington, Lincolnshire. The completion of its certification will follow in 2024.
The Protector offers a flight of up to 40 hours. It will replace the air force’s MQ-9 Reaper for intelligence, surveillance, targeting, and reconnaissance missions.
It will also support civilian agencies in the UK in disaster response and search and rescue operations.
“The acceptance of the first Protector aircraft is a significant and exciting milestone in the delivery of this world class capability to the Royal Air Force,” UK Royal Air Force Program Senior Manager AIr Commodore Alex Hicks said.
“The aircraft will be used to train RAF technicians how to maintain the capability, prior to the arrival of the first aircraft in the UK next year.”