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UK picks up preparations for Protector

Air Vice-Marshal Simon Ellard, director, Combat Air at Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), formally received the first of 16 Protector RG1 UAVs from General Atomics upon completion of the acceptance test procedures in late August. (GA-ASI)

The United Kingdom is stepping up preparations for the introduction into service of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9B Protector RG1 medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), with two programme milestones announced in early September.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) announced on 7 September that it had begun public consultations for an airspace change to enable the UAV to be flown at its main operating base of RAF Waddington. This was followed on 8 September by GA-ASI saying that acceptance test procedures (ATPs) for the first Protector had been completed, marking the official handover of the first air vehicle to theMinistry of Defence (MoD) ahead of delivery to the UK.

β€œThe airspace change has been commenced to facilitate the introduction of segregated airspace as required by UK regulation for the operation of a large remotely piloted air system (RPAS), Protector RG Mk1, out of RAF Waddington from the mid-2020s,” the RAF said of the 12-week consultation.

On the completion of the ATP, which took place in late August, GA-ASI quoted Air Vice-Marshal Simon Ellard, director, Combat Air at Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S), as saying, β€œIt is a great pleasure to accept the official handover of the first Protector aircraft on behalf of the MoD, following the successful completion of ATPs. We now look forward to the first delivery of this highly capable aircraft type to RAF Waddington during 2023.”

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