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UK: Protector Remotely Piloted Aircaft achieves milestone on visit to RAF Squadron


Protector, the Royal Air Force’s future Remotely Piloted Aircraft System, has flown to Creech Air Force Base affording members of the RAF Reaper Force the opportunity to see the aircraft for the first time. In so doing the aircraft, which flew to the Nevada base from Arizona, used its automatic take-off, landing and taxiing capability for the first time at another base within the US.


UK Protector Remotely Piloted Aircaft achieves milestone on visit to RAF Squadron Royal Air Force Protector equipped with Brimstone 2 and Paveway IV bombs (Picture source: MBDA)


Air Vice Marshal Harv Smyth, Air Officer Commanding No.1 Group said: “When we talk about ‘next generation Air Force’ one of the capabilities that we’re delivering is most definitely Protector. This idea that we’ll have an RPAS that can operate anywhere at any time in controlled airspace alongside airliners is an absolutely game changing capability.”

He added: “The fact that we can do it with a platform that’s got 40 plus hours of endurance and a capability to deliver everything from very precise kinetic effect right through to varying payloads of intelligence gathering, taking that intelligence and then adding it into the decision making space, we then absolutely get to a point where we’re gaining what we’re now calling information advantage, an ability to stay ahead of whatever we need to stay ahead of.”

Looking ahead to the arrival of Protector RG Mk.1 into service, Wing Commander Colin Welsh, Officer Commanding 39 Squadron said: “Protector for most of the team here is something which exists on paper and in pictures. So by allowing individuals to see the aircraft, to see the advanced Ground Control System and how the Mission Intelligence Coordinator and the crew will interact through a new system will be a fantastic motivator for the team to have a first-hand look at the next generation of this capability.”

Asked for his thoughts on Protector Wg Cdr Welsh said: “It takes everything that’s great about Reaper and adds a whole bundle of capabilities including the ability to sense and avoid, to be certifiable in order to fly in open airspace and a sovereign weapons payload aboard the aircraft. The ability to take the similarities it has with Reaper and apply them to the next generation of capability and sensors is something everyone is excited about here.”

The UK is committed to acquiring 16 Protector RG Mk1 aircraft to replace the existing Reaper fleet. Two squadrons currently operate Reaper, XIII Squadron based at RAF Waddington and 39 Squadron at Creech AFB.