General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has announced it has successfully completed key system-level tests for the new Protector RG Mk1 Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) version of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian UAS.
The recently completed tests include full-scale static strength, high-intensity radiated frequency (HIRF) and environmental testing by GA-ASI personnel using internal research and development funding, and with support from the RAF and USAF.
The Full-Scale Static (FSS) test included multiple stress tests where the full fuselage, wings, tails, and landing gear were tested to 150 per cent of the highest operational loads to test the strength of all the major structures in the aircraft and verify its safety and reliability. This is key to the aircraft’s airworthiness, which will enable MQ-9B Protectors and SkyGuardian UAS to operate in controlled airspace.
“It’s exciting to see the progress of the Protector Programme,” said RAF Director Air ISTAR Programmes (RPAS and TacISR) and SRO Shadow Programme, GpCapt Shaun Gee. “GA-ASI has provided support, not only in the testing of the aircraft, but in developing this game-changing RPA platform. GA-ASI provided a company MQ-9B over this past summer and operated it from RAF bases in the UK to help us get acquainted with its operational capabilities ahead of the first delivery of Protector.”
The environmental testing was conducted at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin AFB and saw the aircraft subjected to extreme cold temperatures, in-flight ice, supercooled fog, in-flight rain, high humidity, and high temperature with solar load.
The MQ-9B has been selected by the RAAF to fulfil its Project AIR 7003 medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) armed remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) requirement.