The UK has signed a contract for 13 General Atomics (GA-ASI) MQ-9B SkyGuardian uncrewed air vehicles to add to the three it has already committed to, completing its planned order for 16 systems.
The announcement was made by UK Defence Minister Jeremy Quin during a visit to GKN Aerospace in Cowes, the manufacturer of the V-tail sections for all SkyGuardian air vehicles. The SkyGuardian will be known as the Protector RG.1 in RAF service, and the program will include a suite of precision-guided weapons, four ground control segments, and synthetic training devices.
“Our fleet of sixteen Protector aircraft equipped with ultra-modern technology will provide the RAF with a vast global reach allowing us to monitor and protect the battlespace for hours on end,” Minister Quin said in a release. “The Protector program involves industry across the UK with vital parts of the aircraft manufactured on the Isle of Wight, supporting highly-skilled jobs for years to come.”
The RAF’s Protector Programme Senior Responsible Owner, Air Commodore Barrow added, “The contract for the additional 13 Protector aircraft, taking the total to 16, is a major milestone for the UK. When Protector enters service in 2024, UK Defence will take an enormous jump forward in capability, giving us the ability to operate globally with this cutting-edge, highly-adaptable platform.”