About the Protector RG Mk 1 (MQ-9B)

ROLE

Protector RG Mk 1 (MQ-9B) is the successor to Reaper (MQ-9A) and is the next generation of remotely piloted medium-altitude, long endurance (MALE) aircraft. Protector will be deployed in wide-ranging armed Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations where its ability to fly consistently for up to 40 hours will offer the RAF a vastly improved armed ISTAR capability.

Protector taxiing on airfield
Protector RG Mk 1 (MQ-9B)

CAPABILITY

Considered a step change in capability for the RAF, the cutting-edge platform will be capable of being flown anywhere in the world while being operated by personnel located at RAF Waddington. Protector will be able to fly in busy, unsegregated airspace thanks to its ground-breaking ‘detect and avoid’ technology. The platform will also be able to take off and land automatically, increasing its flexibility and meaning there will be a significantly reduced deployed footprint when compared to other remotely piloted platforms such as Reaper.

The aircraft payload comprises of a complex suite of sensors, including a High-Definition Electro-Optical, Infra-Red (IR) camera, which, combined with endurance, provides a sensational persistent reconnaissance capability across the electro-magnetic spectrum. Protector will be able to respond rapidly and offer commanders flexibility, allowing the aircraft to perform a plethora of strategic tasks, ranging from close air support to disaster relief, should it be requested.

The aircraft will use enhanced data links and carry next-generation, low-collateral, precision strike weapons – the UK-made Brimstone missile (MBDA) and Paveway IV Laser Guided Bomb (Raytheon UK). In addition to MBDA and Raytheon, 12 other UK companies contribute towards the MQ-9B programme.

Protector will enter service in 2024.

Protector aircraft on airfield at night.
Protector RG Mk 1 (MQ-9B)

 

Specifications

Protector RG Mk 1 (MQ-9B):

  • Length: 37.5ft (11.43m)
  • Wingspan: 79ft (24m)
  • Maximum take-off weight: 12,500lbs
  • Endurance: 40hrs +
  • Armament: 500lb Paveway IV laser-guided bombs and Brimstone 3 missiles.
 

History of the Protector RG Mk 1 (MQ-9B)

Protector Programme Milestones

  • Oct 2015: The PM announces the Protector programme
  • Jul 2018: Protector prototype conducts first transatlantic flight to take part in RIAT
  • Jul 2018: 31 Squadron announced as the first Protector squadron
  • Jul 2020: MOD signs £65m contract for initial 3 Protector aircraft with option to purchase 13 more
  • Aug 2020: UK and Belgium sign a Bilateral Statement of Intent to collaborate on their MQ-9B programmes
  • Sep 2020: UK’s first Protector undertakes maiden flight
  • Summer 2021: Protector prototype returns to the UK to take part in airspace integration flights and conduct capability demos
  • 2024: Protector enters service