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UK begins Protector crew training

With deliveries to the UK set to begin later in 2023, the RAF has begun US-based crew training at the GA-ASI Flight Test and Training Center (FTTC) in Grand Forks, North Dakota. (Crown Copyright)

The United Kingdom has begun flight crew training on the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9B Protector RG1 medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

The first cohort of Royal Air Force (RAF) pilots, sensor operators (SOs), and mission intelligence co-ordinators (MICs) have begun training on the type at GA-ASI's Flight Test and Training Center (FTTC) in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

“The scope of the training is focused on foundational skills required to operate the Protector air vehicle and its equipment, including the multispectral targeting system (MTS), synthetic aperture radar (SAR), mission intelligence station (MIS), and System for Tasking and Real-Time Exploitation (STARE),” GA-ASI said on 4 May. “Training involves building solid foundations for both normal and emergency operations in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems, instrument flying, and automatic take-off and landing capability (ATLC).”

The training, which commenced at the FTTC on 1 May, encompasses the first four operational conversion units (OCUs), each comprising eight crews made up of pilots, SOs, and MICs. It includes simulation and live flight of the air vehicle, while the synthetic training includes a desktop procedural trainer and a mission trainer.

News of the commencement of training at the FTTC came seven months after the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced the Protector Training Conduct (PTC) on 4 October 2022, saying the award would cover instruction for the first 33 mission crews during a period of 19 months running until March 2024. The contract was valued at GBP25.9 million (USD32.6 million).

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