Defence secretary Michael Fallon has announced a £100m deal that will see the RAF’s UAV capability enhanced with the introduction of Protector drones.
Developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, the Protector will replace the UK’s current fleet of 10 Reaper drones, which are also manufactured by the California-based company. Last year it was announced that the new fleet would also double the UK’s capability, with 20 Protectors expected to come into service from 2021.
“Britain faces ever-evolving threats and we must look at innovative solutions to stay ahead of our enemies,” said Fallon, who was speaking at the annual Reagan National Defence Forum in California.
“Doubling investment in our unmanned air fleet will substantially enhance both the intelligence gathering and firepower of the RAF.”
According to the MoD, the Protector will benefit from advanced imaging and enhanced datalink technology, delivering improved range and endurance, greater weapons capacity, and automated take-off and landing. Current plans will see the new fleet armed with UK-made Brimstone 2 missiles and Paveway IV laser-guided bombs.
In April, defence publisher Jane’s reported that the Protector will be based on General Atomics’ Certifiable Predator B (CPB) drone, which has a maximum operating altitude of 45,000 feet, endurance of more than 40 hours, and a top air speed of 200 knots.
“Protector is a highly advanced system which will use world-beating technology to give us a decisive advantage on the battlefield,” said Tony Douglas, chief executive of the MOD’s Defence Equipment & Support organisation.
“This contract signature is not only great news for our armed forces, but demonstrates how the strong relationship between UK Defence and our allies helps to ensure best value for the taxpayer.”