The Royal Air Force has received the first Protector aircraft, the latest Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS), marking a significant milestone in the nation’s defense capabilities.
The Protector is a British version of an MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft system developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
Equipped with a suite of advanced surveillance equipment, the Protector drone brings a critical global surveillance capability to the RAF. Remotely piloted from RAF Waddington, it boasts with an impressive operational range, with the ability to fly at heights of up to 40,000 feet and an endurance of over 30 hours.
The arrival of the Protector aircraft is a testament to the UK’s commitment to maintaining cutting-edge surveillance and intelligence capabilities, which can be swiftly deployed against potential adversaries worldwide.
Minister for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge, emphasized the UK’s commitment to spearheading military defense technology, stating, “The UK’s world-class Protector will emphasize our ultra-modern surveillance and intelligence capabilities, ready to deploy against potential adversaries around the globe.”
The initial phase of Protector testing at RAF Waddington will encompass a series of ground tests, including assessments of satellite links, taxi procedures, and take-off and landing procedures. This testing phase will involve circuit procedures conducted above RAF Waddington. The arrival of the remaining 15 Protector aircraft will follow a phased delivery plan.
“The arrival of the UK’s first Protector to the Royal Air Force is the culmination of years of work by many personnel across the whole of the MOD. The ISR Capability Team will be working with 56 Squadron, our test and evaluation experts, who will put the aircraft through its paces to ensure it is ready for operational service next year, whilst the newly reformed 31 Squadron will focus on preparing to operate the aircraft in service. This is an important milestone for the Program, Air Force, and wider defense, and I am delighted to see Protector at RAF Waddington,” said Air Commodore Alex Hicks, Senior Responsible Officer for the Protector Program.
In addition to assuming the operational roles currently undertaken by the Reaper, which has provided exceptional service on continuous operations for over 15 years, the Protector will be certified to stringent NATO safety and certification standards, enabling it to operate in both UK and European civilian airspace.