The handover last month followed the successful conclusion of the Acceptance Test Procedure performed jointly by UK MOD and GA-ASI.
Ownership of the aircraft has now transferred to UK MOD and the aircraft will now fly with a UK Military tail number, PR005, under a UK Military Permit to Fly.
The aircraft remains in the USA to participate in the initial training programme for the RAF, with the first delivery of Protector to the RAF in the UK planned for 2023.
Acceptance Test Procedure was performed over the past two months at GA-ASI’s Desert Horizon flight operations facility in El Mirage, California, and included all inspections and tests performed on the hardware in operation for the aircraft and in conformance with the functional specification and technical requirements.
To achieve full operational clearance, Protector is being assessed against stringent NATO and UK safety certification standards, meaning it could operate in civilian airspace. It is expected that Protector will achieve certification in 2024.
Protector will replace Reaper and will be deployed in wide-ranging Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations where its ability to fly consistently for up to 40 hours, offers the RAF vastly improved armed ISTAR capability. It would also be available, if requested, to support civilian agencies in the UK, for example in search and rescue and disaster response missions.