The MQ-9B SkyGuardian, pictured in flight, recently completed its first transatlantic flight in a 24-hour journey from Grand Forks, N.D., in the United States to Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom. Photo courtesy of General Atomics Aeronautical
July 12 (UPI) -- General Atomics announced its MQ-9B medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted vehicle completed its first transatlantic flight from the United States to Britain.
The MQ-9B SkyGuardian was launched from Grand Forks, N.D., on July 10, flying more than 4,300 miles over the course of 24 hours, before landing at the Royal Air Force Fairford in Gloucestershire in southwest England, the company said this week.
"This historic event was a demonstration of the endurance and civil airspace capability of the MQ-9B SkyGuardian, and it is fitting to do this as part of the centennial celebration of the RAF," Linden Blue, CEO of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., said in a press release.
The flight was meant to be a demonstration for the Royal Air Force for the new model of the drone class. The RAF has been operating versions of the Predator and Reaper class for a number of years. The RAF configuration of MQ-9B will be called the Protector RG Mk1.
The MQ-9B SkyGuardian, also known as the Reaper, is a much larger and heavily armed successor to the storied MQ-1 Predator drone. It is designed primarily for attack missions, but can also be used for surveillance, close air support and reconnaissance.
The SkyGuardian has long-range endurance and carries the advanced Multi-Spectral Targeting System. It's suite includes infrared cameras, laser designators, and video systems, in addition to a satellite uplink/downlink capabilities that allow its sensor data to be shared across networks.
The aircraft has a high cruise speed, a flight ceiling up to 40,000 feet, long range and can carry a much larger payload than its predecessors. They can carry Hellfire laser-guided missiles, GBU-12 Paveway bombs, and GPS-guided GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
Historic Trans-Atlantic Flight Launch Sequence from General Atomics on Vimeo.