UK’s First Protector Plane Undertakes Maiden Flight – Drones Information
The first British Protector RG Mk1 aircraft has successfully completed its first flight after departure.
The latest milestone in the UK Protector program follows the announcement in July that the first three aircraft would be manufactured after the Department of Defense (MOD) awarded General Atomics – Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) a £ 65 million order . .
The plane soared into the skies in the United States on Friday, September 25, under the watchful eye of GA-ASI staff.
The RG Mk1 Protector, which will replace the current Reaper Force when brought to the front lines, is seen as a gradual change in the capabilities of the RAF.
The state-of-the-art platform can be flown anywhere in the world while operated by staff at its home base at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, where it will enter service in mid-2024.
Defense Secretary Jeremy Quin said:
“The maiden flight of the UK’s first Protector is an exciting and welcome step in the development of our groundbreaking fleet. With increased range and endurance, greater ISR and weapon capacity, and improved weather resistance, Protector will play an important intelligence and deterrent role in warding off future threats. “
This first Protector aircraft will remain in the US to support systems testing as part of a combined UK MOD, US Air Force and GA-ASI test team. Once these initial tests are completed, it will be shipped to MOD in the summer of 2021 but will remain in the US to complete the RAF’s testing and evaluation program.
This is the first of the three Protector aircraft currently on order, although the contract includes an option for the remaining 13 aircraft to complete the currently planned fleet of 16 aircraft that will more than double the capacity currently provided by Reaper.
Protector must meet strict NATO and UK security certification standards, which means it can operate in civil airspace.
Protector is used in wide-ranging Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations where its ability to fly consistently for up to 40 hours gives the RAF a vastly improved armed ISTAR capability.
It is also available upon request to assist civil authorities in the UK, for example with search and rescue and civil protection missions.
Sir Simon Bollom, CEO of Defense Equipment and Support said:
“The maiden flight of the UK’s first Protector aircraft is another important step in this important program of bringing a truly cutting-edge capability to the RAF.
“The dedicated DE&S team has worked with the industry to overcome significant challenges and to ensure this project stays on schedule.”
The aircraft will use enhanced data links and carry next-generation precision weapons with low security – the UK-made Brimstone Missile (MBDA) and the laser-guided Paveway IV bomb (Raytheon UK).
The fleet will also feature advanced icing and lightning protection, giving the RAF unparalleled flexibility to operate in adverse weather conditions.
Group Captain Shaun Gee, the RAF’s director for Air ISTAR programs, said:
“Protector is used in wide-ranging Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations where its ability to fly consistently for up to 40 hours provides a vastly improved ISTAR capability.
“Because the Protector RPAS is designed to fly in non-segregated civil airspace, it can be responsive, flexible and capable of performing many types of military or civil agency support missions, including search and rescue.”
The first aircraft delivery to the RAF will take place in 2023.