A diverse industry team joined ranks at the Farnborough air show on 17 July to highlight the importance of the UK's Protector acquisition of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems' MQ-9B SkyGuardian.
The US airframer's first example of the medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted air system completed a debut transatlantic crossing before appearing in the static display at the Royal International Air Tattoo from 13-15 July.
Leonardo and General Atomics used the show to announce a collaboration in integrating the former's Sage electronic support measures equipment with the SkyGuardian airframe. This will be offered as an option to the UK and other future customers for the surveillance asset.
Alastair Morrison, Leonardo's deputy managing director UK, says the company also is eyeing the MALE platform as a potential candidate for equipment including its BriteCloud active decoy, Mysis directed infrared countermeasures suite, Osprey and Seaspray radars and an infrared search and track sensor.
Other companies working with General Atomics on the MQ-9B include Cobham, GKN Fokker, MBDA and Raytheon UK.
"We are looking for an enduring partnership," Morrison says of the relationship between the industry players and General Atomics. "If we all get together, there's something very good for all of us in it."
"GA and the companies have shown real innovation in the way that we are doing business," says Royal Air Force Protector programme manager Wg Cdr Neil Towers, who adds that the service is drawing on a decade of operational experience with the MQ-9 Reaper while preparing for operations with the future model.
Meanwhile, Dave Alexander, General Atomics' general manager, aircraft systems, says the company has received interest from the US special operations community in an "expeditionary" variant of the SkyGuardian, which will capable of taking off from a 3,500ft runway.
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