Published 3 December 2021
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The Protector project passed another milestone recently with completion of a series of system level tests by the manufacturer General Atomics – Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI). The tests included electromagnetic testing including hazards of electromagnetic radiation on ordnance (HERO) testing for the Protector weapons fit, environmental testing, and completion of the Full-Scale Static testing of the aircraft.
The testing all took place in the USA. The high intensity radiated frequency testing took place at the Electromagnetic Environmental Effects Test Facility at the US Naval Air Station at Patuxent River in Maryland. The environmental testing took place at the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The Full-Scale Static testing took place at the GA-ASI facility at Desert Horizons in California.
In the electromagnetic testing Protector was subjected to high intensity electromagnetic radiation across the full operational electromagnetic spectrum and included HERO testing of the weapons outload.
During the environmental testing the system was subjected to a variety of tests including extreme cold weather testing (down to minus 33 degrees Celsius), in flight ice, supercooled fog, in-flight rain, high humidity and high temperature with solar load.
The Full-Scale Static testing included multiple stress test where the airframe was tested to 150% of the highest expected operational loads. This tested the strength of all the major structures of the airframe, verifying its safety and reliability when operated at maximum airspeeds and g-forces within the operational envelope. This is key to demonstrating the aircraft’s airworthiness; Protector will the first medium altitude long endurance Remotely Piloted Air System to be certified enabling it to eventually fly in all classes of UK and international airspace.
Colonel P Hughes, Protector Chief Engineer and Type Airworthiness Authority said:
“The successful completion of this significant suite of testing, which has touched all areas of the platform, is the culmination of a year’s activity and provides critical evidence as part of the Protector certification activity. A key achievement which not only demonstrates the effectiveness of General Atomics’ design but also proves the systems suitability for operation in the wide-ranging environment in which the RAF wish to utilise this game changing capability. The ever increasing body of test evidence, to which these significant achievements are now added, highlighting that Protector remains on track to gain the first Military Type Certificate for a medium altitude long endurance Remotely Piloted Air System. A first not just within the UK defence inventory but globally.”
Group Captain Shaun Gee, Director Air ISTAR Programmes said:
“It’s exciting to see the progress of the Protector Programme. GA-ASI has provided support, not only in testing of the aircraft, but in developing this game-changing Remotely Piloted Air System.”