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SkyGuardian arrives in UK for European demos

A General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has arrived in the UK ahead of a capability demonstration campaign.

An artist's impression of the Protector RG1 in RAF service. (General Atomics via Janes/Gareth Jennings)

An artist's impression of the Protector RG1 in RAF service. (General Atomics via Janes/Gareth Jennings)

The company-owned aircraft was photographed at Royal Air Force (RAF) Waddington in England on 25 August, ahead of a planned series of operational capability demonstrations for NATO allies, including the Netherlands.

During its stay, the SkyGuardian will participate in the multinational exercises, demonstrating in particular its maritime role in the SeaGuardian configuration that includes a multimode maritime surface-search radar with an inverse synthetic aperture radar imaging mode (the mechanically scanned Raytheon SeaVue X-Band radar is the incumbent system, with GA-ASI set to shortly offer the Leonardo Seaspray 7500E V2 active electronically scanned array [AESA] radar also), as well as an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver to locate, identify, and track shipping.

The arrival of the SkyGuardian into RAF Waddington comes three years after the type made its UK debut with an appearance at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) in July 2018, and nearly 12 months after the first Protector RG1, as the type is to be known in RAF service, made its maiden flight in the United States in September 2020.

In July the UK government announced the order of a further 13 Protector UAVs to add to the three already contracted, bringing the total number to 16 (the UK had an earlier stated requirement for 20 air vehicles, although a US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notification of the proposed Protector sale has put the number at 26). The RAF is scheduled to declare the capability operational in 2023/2024.

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