Sky-high aspirations: With the purchase of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft System, the Royal Canadian Air Force takes to the skies

The Royal Canadian Air Force to acquire the MQ-9B SkyGuardian Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS). This will provide the Canadian Armed Forces with the ability to conduct long endurance missions over significant distances, using a variety of sensors. The MQ-9B will enable airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, with near-real time information. It will also support special security events such as international summits like the G7, and CAF operations in aid of civil authority, such as forest fires and flood response. In deployed operations, an RPAS will provide commanders an overview of operational situations with near real-time information. The system will be capable of detecting, recognizing, identifying, tracking, and engaging targets of interest in complex environments. It will also enable Canada to optimally fulfill its North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and NATO missions while increasing interoperability with U.S. and NATO forces.

The MQ-9B SkyGuardian is the next generation of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), delivering persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) around the globe. SkyGuardian is designed to fly over the horizon via satellite for up to 40+ hours in all types of weather and safely integrate into civil airspace, enabling joint forces and civil authorities to deliver real-time situational awareness anywhere in the world—day or night. The aircraft is outfitted with the revolutionary Lynx Multi-mode Radar, an advanced electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor, automatic takeoff and landing, and features a longer wingspan than its predecessors at 79 ft (24m). In addition to its industry-leading endurance and superior surveillance capabilities, SkyGuardian seamlessly integrates with its users’ other platforms, systems, and podded technologies, dramatically expanding the platform’s multi-domain mission sets.

As an MQ-9B RPAS, SkyGuardian is designed from the ground up to not only meet NATO standards (STANAG 4671) but also to comply with civil airspace requirements in the U.S. and around the world. Using GA-ASI’s first-of-its-kind Detect and Avoid System and Certifiable Ground Control Station, SkyGuardian seamlessly integrates with normal air traffic just like other commercial aircraft. SkyGuardian’s remote flight station gives operators a similar, if not better, air traffic picture than the cockpit of human-crewed aircraft. Over the years, GA-ASI has been working very closely with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the UK Civil Aviation Authority to approve MQ-9B for flight in civil airspace.The UK’s Royal Air Force is currently leading the way and will be the first force to operate this aircraft under their own designation, Protector RG Mk1.

SkyGuardian is derived from a family of systems that has achieved over 8 million flight hours over the past decade, supporting operations around the globe, from the battlefield to environmental and humanitarian efforts. Drawing on this experience, SkyGuardian provides enhanced payload capacity and an open architecture system that enables the aircraft to integrate the most advanced sensor payloads for intelligence gathering, survivability, and even kinetic payloads for more complex operational environments. SkyGuardian features nine hardpoints (8 wing, 1 centerline) with a max 4750 lb (2155 kg) external payload capacity. This enables armed forces and governments to easily integrate sovereign payloads and mission systems for their own uniquely tailored solutions.

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