The UK and Belgium have agreed a Bilateral Statement of Intent (SoI) to explore collaboration on the MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) which both nations are acquiring.
Known as Protector RG Mk1 in the UK, MQ-9B is the first RPAS to be designed, built and certified against stringent NATO and UK Safety Certification standards equivalent to piloted aircraft to allow flight in unsegregated civilian airspace.
The SoI was signed by Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, Chief of the Air Staff, and Major General Frederik Vansina, Commander of the Belgian Air Component. Both parties will now focus on opportunities to work together on training, maintenance, logistic support, interoperability and capability enhancement.
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston said:
“This Statement of Intent between the UK and Belgium reflects our shared ambition for Protector, the MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft System, working in partnership to tackle threats to our national and collective security.
“The Royal Air Force and Belgian Air Force will explore opportunities to train, maintain and work together on this game changing aircraft using its cutting-edge sensors and systems to protect national, NATO and European security.
“The introduction of Protector MQ-9B reflects a step change in remotely piloted aircraft operations in Europe and worldwide. The Royal Air Force is delighted that the Belgian Air Force will stand beside us again on that historic journey.”
The UK is the lead customer for the capability. Last month Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced a contract to build the first three UK Protectors with an option for 13 more in due course.
Belgium is procuring four MQ-9Bs for its defence needs.
Major General Frederik Vansina said:
“As the second Air Force acquiring this system, we are proud to join the United Kingdom in setting the first milestones towards interoperability between both our systems.
“Both our nations see great opportunity in developing strategic partnership and in doing so we will tackle shared challenges with greater strength on top of streamlining our Forces’ interoperability in employing this state-of-the-art asset.
“As other NATO Air Force’s join the United Kingdom and Belgium in acquiring this cutting-edge capability, which we will seamlessly integrate into densely navigated airspaces around the globe, I’m proud to announce today’s signing of our bi-national Statement of Intent. This is a first and important step toward the foundation of a reliable partnership between our Air Force’s involving key aspects in the development of this novel system.”
MQ-9B will make a significant contribution to the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities of both nations.