General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA‑ASI) has announced a plan to take its SkyGuardian UAS (unmanned aerial system) to the United Kingdom in order to perform a series of operational capability demonstrations for NATO allies, including the Netherlands. The SkyGuardian is the base platform for the UK Royal Air Force’s Protector program.
The aircraft will be configured with a range of maritime capabilities, including a multi-mode maritime surface-search radar with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar imaging mode, an Automatic Identification System receiver, and a High-Definition, Full-Motion Video sensor equipped with optical and infrared cameras.
The demonstrations will build on previous events showcasing the unmanned capabilities of the platform, which have included a transatlantic flight, maritime demonstrations in Greece and validation flights in Japan. Taking place at the Royal Air Force’s Waddington Air Base, they will culminate with the MQ-9B’s participation in the UK-led Joint Warrior exercise that will showcase how maritime capabilities can be integrated with other air, surface and land platforms.
The flights will also further develop GA-ASI’s revolutionary Detect and Avoid (DAA) capability, which will enable Protector to fly in unsegregated UK airspace. It will also assist RAF Waddington, the future home of the RAF Protector fleet, to best prepare to integrate the new aircraft into its daily operations.
The MQ-9B is a next-generation UAV with airborne endurance of more than 40 hours and automatic takeoffs and landings under SATCOM-only control. Its development is the result of a company-funded effort to deliver an unmanned aircraft platform that can meet the stringent airworthiness certification requirements of various military and civil authorities. In addition the the UK, it has also been selected by the Australian Defence Force and the Belgian Ministry of Defense.
Tommy Dunehew, vice president of International Strategic Development for GA-ASI, commented: “GA-ASI will work closely with multiple European allies to demonstrate the capabilities of MQ-9B, including in the maritime environment, and how MQ-9B can complement and team within a networked environment with other national assets.”