MANUFACTURER(S): General Atomics - USA
OPERATORS: Belgium; United Kingdom (ordered); United States (possible)
LENGTH: 36.75 feet (11.2 meters)
WIDTH: 66.60 feet (20.3 meters)
HEIGHT: 12.47 feet (3.8 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 3,858 pounds (1,750 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 11,023 pounds (5,000 kilograms)
ENGINE: 1 x Honeywell turboprop engine of unknown horsepower output driving a three-bladed propeller unit in pusher configuration.
SPEED (MAX): 242 miles-per-hour (390 kilometers-per-hour; 211 knots)
RANGE: 2,796 miles (4,500 kilometers; 2,430 nautical miles)
CEILING: 40,010 feet (12,195 meters; 7.58 miles)
Detailing the development and operational history of the General Atomics MQ-9B Protector / SkyGuardian (Predator B) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) ISR Drone.
Entry last updated on 3/28/2019.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
In an effort to meet newer, more demanding NATO and American FAA regulations for airworthiness standards in civil airspaces around the globe, General Atomics is developing an offshoot of its hugely successful MQ-9 "Predator B" Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) as the MQ-9B "Protector". The type features upgrades at both the software and hardware levels to better serve in various global environments while also being protected against natural dangers such as bird strikes, icing, and lightning. Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF) has committed to the type and the service expects to receive its first units before the end of 2018 with type certification expected between 2021 and 2022 (civil airspace certification will arrive later). This certification will allow the air vehicle to legally fly over population centers with the intended goal of monitoring and coordinating disaster responses and the like.
The Protector maintains the Predator's proven form and function, the sleek fuselage housing the primary avionics suite, optics fit, and powerplant. The wings are straight monoplanes with winglets at the tips. An optics package is positioned in a trainable blister pack under the chin. A Y-shaped tailplane arrangement is used that features a pair of outward-cranked fins and a single downward-cranked plane. The undercarriage sports three thin legs, all wheeled. At the rear of the aircraft is a three-bladed propeller unit arranged in "pusher" fashion.
The Protector is to have a maximum speed of 210 knots with a mission endurance window of some forty hours and a total product life of 40,000 hours. Operational ceilings will reach 40,000 feet. Supported systems are set to include the Raytheon MTS-B Electro-Optical / InfraRed (EO/IR) sensor fit, the GA-ASI "Lynx" multi-mode mission radar, and a true sense-and-avoid / all-weather functionality. Mission payloads will be modular to allow customers to append the product as needed.
The MQ-9B platform is also forming the basis for the armed "SkyGuardian" Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) which will feature support for precision-based guided munitions. Similarly, the "SeaGuardian" is being developed as a multi-mission maritime patroller with surface-search radar to meet the demands of over-water sorties in both the military and civilian spheres.
July 2018 - The MQ-9B SkyGuardian prototype was flown to RAF Fairford in England from Grand Forks, North Dakota - covering some 24 hours in the air. This marks the first such venture by a Medium-Altitude, Long-Endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft.
November 2018 - Belgium has selected the MQ-9B SkyGuardian to fulfill its MALE requirement.
February 2019 - General Atomics has entered into agreements with France-based MBDA and America-based Raytheon to further its UK "Protector" program work for the Royal Air Force (RAF) / Royal Navy - this will provide Protector support for missiles/bombs developed by both respective companies ("Brimstone" and "Paveway IV").
March 2019 - The General Atomics MQ-9B is one of several UAVs that will content for a Japanese Coast Guard requirement encompassing twelve drones.
March 2019 - The U.S. State Department has approved the sale of MQ-9B drones to the nation of Belgium under the Foreign Military Sale (FMS) program. The country now joins the United Kingdom as a foreign operator of the type.
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This entry's maximum listed speed (242mph).
Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
Graph showcases the General Atomics MQ-9B Protector's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
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Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units