The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) is preparing for the introduction into service of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) Protector unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), with a dedicated team currently working through the issues in the United States.
The Protector Combined Test Team (CTT) is now co-ordinating the testing and evaluation of the Protector system, which will replace the GA-ASI MQ-9 Reaper UAV in RAF service, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported on 13 March.
As noted by the MoD, this Wing Commander-led CTT comprises experienced pilots, sensor operators, and engineers from the RAF; industry partners; and the US Air Force (USAF). 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 United Kingdom is investing in an initial 16 Protectors, but has a stated requirement for 20 such aircraft to replace the 10 Reapers that it currently fields (though a US Defense Security and Cooperation Agency notification of the proposed Protector sale put the number at 26).
Protector is the United Kingdom’s name for the Certifiable Predator B (CPB) that is being upgraded with national-specific equipment and munitions. Equipment includes multispectral targeting systems and AN/APY-8 Lynx IIe Block 20A synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indicators (SAR/GMTI), as well as enhanced datalinks. Munitions comprise MBDA Brimstone 2 missiles and Raytheon Paveway IV laser-guided bombs.
According to GA-ASI, the CPB has a maximum operating altitude of 45,000 ft (compared with 50,000 ft for the Reaper), a maximum endurance of more than 40 hours (compared with 27 hours for the Reaper), and a maximum air speed of 200 kt (compared with 240 kt for the Reaper). The CPB also has nine external stories stations, compared with five for the Reaper.
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