After delivery across the Atlantic at the end of September, the Royal Air Force now has its very first Protector drone. After various tests, it should enter service next year. A total of 16 Protectors were ordered by the RAF to replace the MQ-9A Reaper.
Something new in Waddington
On September 29, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems announced the delivery of the first MQ-9B Protector (SkyGuardian) drone to the Royal Air Force (publication below). The Protector was dismantled and placed in the hold of an Antonov Airlines An-124-100 strategic transport aircraft. The plane took off from California to Waddington Air Force Base (Lincolnshire, United Kingdom). The drone was then reassembled by personnel from the 31st Squadron of the RAF. This squadron was reformed specifically to use the RAF Protectors.
And on October 23, the RAF officially announced that it had received its very first Protector. The 31st Sq will then begin testing the drone, in cooperation with the 56th Sq (specialized in testing). These tests should in particular make it possible to verify and confirm the very important satellite link, the taxi, take-off and landing procedures, etc. The commissioning of this first drone will be quite rapid, as estimated by the RAF in the course of of the year 2024.
Note that the United Kingdom and Belgium collaborate regarding the certification, training, maintenance and logistical support of their MQ-9B. Belgium will soon receive four SkyGuardians. The number of participants in this initiative is expected to increase soon: Germany, Canada, Denmark, Greece, Lithuania and Norway currently have observer status.