General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) and GKN Aerospace have signed a contract for GKN Aerospace to manufacture the advanced composite V-tails for GA-ASI’s new MQ-9B SkyGuardian. Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) from their Cowes facility in the United Kingdom. SkyGuardian is the baseline system of the UK Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Protector RG Mk1 and has also been selected by Belgian Defence and the Australian Defence Force. This represents another important milestone in the 10-year strategic relationship between GA-ASI and GKN Aerospace, and adds to the strong investment GA-ASI is making in world-leading UK industries. “We value our long relationship with GKN Aerospace as a strategic supplier of critical aerospace subsystems to support our global supply chain,” said vice president of International Strategic Development for GA-ASI, Tommy Dunehew. “We are pleased to expand this relationship with composite structures manufactured in the UK. This will mean that not only the RAF’s Protector will have UK-manufactured tails, but the global MQ-9B fleet will also benefit from tails manufactured in the UK,” he added.
GA-ASI and GKN Aerospace had previously entered into a pre-production contract, under which GA-ASI provided the required engineering technical data and tooling, and GKN Aerospace developed their manufacturing processes and produced demonstrator parts. Under this latest agreement, GKN Aerospace will begin full rate production of the V-tails from the Cowes facility to support MQ-9B aircraft production. GKN Aerospace has been a global supplier to GA-ASI’s MQ-9 program for a decade, with the strategic partnership on GA-ASI’s world-leading RPAS starting in 2010. Activities began with the design and build of the “fit and forget” fuel bladder system in Portsmouth, UK, followed by the production of fuel bladders in the USA. Today, GKN Aerospace manufactures a range of products including the state-of-the-art lightweight landing gear system, which it produces in the Netherlands. Krisstie Kondrotis, President of GKN Aerospace’s Defence business, said: “We are extremely proud to be a key supplier for GA-ASI on the MQ-9B programme and this agreement helps to strengthen that partnership. We have ambitious plans to grow our Defense business and this is an important milestone for GKN Aerospace, and especially the Cowes facility, paving the way for continued growth in the UK for advanced aerostructures manufacturing. GA-ASI is the market leader in RPAS, while GKN Aerospace is a market and technology leader in advanced aerostructures, special products and lightweight technologies. Our long-term collaboration continues to demonstrate the strong commitment the two companies share.”