A £65 million contract has been awarded to build the UK’s first three Protector drones.
Protector is the world’s first certified Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS), enabling it to fly in busy, unsegregated airspace, including civilian airspace, thanks to its ground-breaking ‘detect and avoid’ technology.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
“The UK is proving once again that we are a world leader in defence technology. Protector will provide the RAF with vast global reach, meeting the UK’s defence and security needs for decades to come, and provides another increase to the unmanned inventory for the Armed Forces. This aircraft will upgrade a whole range of lethal capabilities allowing us to control, protect and manage the battlespace from the air for hours on end.”
According to the Ministry of Defence:
“Its ability to fly consistently for up to 40 hours will offer the RAF vastly improved armed intelligence and reconnaissance sorties. The innovative fleet will also have advanced anti-icing and lightning protection, providing the RAF with unprecedented flexibility to operate in extreme weather conditions. Protector also comes with enhanced data links and will carry next-generation, low collateral, precision strike weapons – the UK-made Brimstone missile (MBDA) and Paveway IV Laser Guided Bomb (Raytheon UK).”
The contract follows the development phase by manufacturers General Atomics Aeronautical Systems which will build the first three Protector aircraft, plus three ground control stations and other associated support equipment. It also includes an option to build 13 more aircraft and four ground control stations, which will complete the current planned fleet of 16 aircraft, more than doubling the capability currently provided by Reaper.