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UK aspires to be ‘global leader' for MQ-9B

With the RAF set to shortly begin receiving the first of its Protector variant of the MQ-9B, it hopes to be the global leader for other international customers of the SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian versions of the unmanned aircraft. (GA-ASI)

The United Kingdom aims to serve as a global leader for the latest variant of the MQ-9 medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI), the chief of the Royal Air Force (RAF) told Janes and other media on 9 September.

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, made his comments at an event at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire to mark the first European-based demonstrations of the certified UAV. He said that with the RAF soon to receive its first Protector RG1 version of the MQ-9B, he expected other signed-up and potential future customers of both the SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian variants to take advantage of the experience and capabilities that the UK is now building up with the system both for training and for operations (the Protector is a UK-specific version of the MQ-9B, while the SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian versions of the MQ-9B differ from each other only in the latter having a maritime mission fit).

“The UK ambition is to be the lead for training and operations for the [MQ-9B]. There are currently around 30 allied air forces that are showing interest in Protector and SkyGuardian [/SeaGuardian]”, ACM Wigston said. While officials declined to identify these air forces, the SkyGuardian/SeaGuardian has been acquired by Australia and Belgium, and is in various stages of approval and/or acquisition with India, Japan, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

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