The GA-ASI-owned MQ-9B SkyGuardian
- a medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) remotely piloted
aircraft (RPA) - made history
on Wednesday as it landed at RAF Fairford in England to become the first MALE RPA to successfully
complete a trans-Atlantic flight.
Produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
(GA-ASI), the MQ-9B SkyGuardian took off from Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA on
at 12:48 p.m. CDT. The flight covered 3,760 nautical miles and
took 24 hours 2 minutes.
“This historic event was a
demonstration of the endurance and civil airspace capability of
the MQ-9B SkyGuardian, and it is fitting to do this as part of the
centennial celebration of the RAF,” said Linden Blue, CEO, GA-ASI.
“The successful flight of the MQ-9B is the culmination of the hard
work and innovation of our dedicated employees, and the strong
relationships that we enjoy with the RAF, the UK Civil Aviation
Authority, the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) and our
UK industry partners such as Cobham.”
Over the past 10 years,
the RAF has operated GA-ASI’s MQ-9 Reaper RPA in support of
NATO and coalition operations. As the RAF is celebrating its 100-year
anniversary (RAF100) this year, GA-ASI seized the opportunity to fly the
newest MQ-9 version, MQ-9B to RIAT. The RAF configuration of MQ-9B
will be called PROTECTOR RG Mk1.
MQ-9B is the next
generation of GA-ASI’s multi-mission Predator B fleet. GA-ASI
named its baseline MQ-9B aircraft SkyGuardian, and the maritime
surveillance variant SeaGuardian.
MQ-9B is a “type-certifiable”
(STANAG 4671-compliant) version of the MQ-9 Predator B product
line. Its development is the result of a five-year, company-funded
effort to deliver a RPA that can meet the stringent airworthiness
type-certification requirements of various military and civil
authorities, including the UK Military Airworthiness Authority
(MAA) and the U.S. FAA.
Type-certification, together with an
extensively tested collision avoidance system, will allow
unrestricted operations in all classes of civil airspace.
Paul Armstrong, Senior Vice President of Cobham Aviation Services
UK, said, “The SkyGuardian trans-Atlantic flight is a significant
and exciting event for both GA-ASI and for the future capability
of the RAF. Cobham is proud to have a teaming agreement with
GA-ASI for logistics and maintenance services, which builds on our
present support of the Reaper Ground Control Stations. We look
forward to working with both GA-ASI and the RAF as the PROTECTOR
RG Mk1 comes into service.”
The MQ-9B will be
on static display at the RIAT airshow from 13 - 15 July.
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