Protector | RAF receives Reaper’s replacement
Defence Redefined
Published on 26/10/2023 at 15:45

The first Remotely Piloted Air System “Protector” landed at the Waddington base of the Royal Air Force (RAF), according to a relevant announcement.

Based on the specific armament program, the British Air Force will receive a total of 16 Protector RPAS by 2025, which will replace the MQ-9A Reaper.

The Protector RG MK1 MQ-9B is a next-generation remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) intended for use in medium-altitude and long-endurance (MALE) applications.

Developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), it is a successor to MQ-9B SkyGuardian RPAS. The Protector will become the world’s first certified RPAS to fly in non-segregated airspace, once operational.

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In fact, it is certified for its design and build according to the manned aircraft systems’ standards of NATO STANAG-4671 and the UK DEFSTAN 00-970 aircraft system airworthiness requirements.

In particular, the Protector has advanced systems and equipment to perform missions such as intelligence gathering, surveillance, targeting, reconnaissance, search and rescue, and natural disaster response. 

The RAF’s 31 Squadron, which has already completed the assembly of the Protector, is preparing the new unmanned aircraft for final tests so as to get the ‘green light’ to put the system into operational service by 2024. Initially, field trials will be carried out for the control of satellite links and orbiting procedures and then the flight tests will follow.

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The system in question features 40,000 hours of service life and has a length of 11.43 meters, and a wingspan of 21.12 meters, while its maximum take-off weight (MTOW) is 5,670 kg. Also, it has a maximum endurance of 40 hours and a maximum speed of 388.92 km/h along with a maximum altitude of 12.192 km. Its maximum range is more than 11.112 km and is powered by a Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engine.

The RPAS features nine hardpoints for rapid integration of Brimstone missiles as well as Paveway IV-type laser-guided bombs. It integrates a high-definition, electro-optical infrared camera and is also equipped with lightning protection and a de-icing system as well as GA-ASI’s detect and avoid system (DAAS).

Lastly, the X-band satellite communications (SATCOM) enable automatic take-off and landing capability to the RPAS, which will allow the aircraft to self-deploy, avoiding the need for forward-based launch recovery equipment and personnel.

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