The Protector RG Mk1, a remotely piloted aircraft system, took to the skies from RAF Waddington.

According to a press release:

“The first of 16 remotely piloted Protector aircraft arrived at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire in September and is undergoing a series of rigorous trials and tests before entering the RAF fleet. Capable of operating across the world with a minimal deployed footprint and remotely piloted from RAF Waddington, it can operate at heights up to 40,000 feet with an endurance of over 30 hours.

Protector, the largest and most advanced remotely piloted aircraft flown in UK airspace, successfully taxied and flew a series of circuits around RAF Waddington airfield, at all times under the control of a pilot through its ground-based advanced cockpit. Equipped with a suite of surveillance equipment, the Protector aircraft will bring a critical global surveillance capability for the UK, all while being remotely piloted from RAF Waddington.”

Mr. Holford, Head of Remotely Piloted Air Systems for Defence Equipment and Support, was quoted as saying:

“At DE&S one of our key drivers is strengthening operations by providing cutting-edge equipment into the hands of our Armed Forces. Seeing the first UK Protector take flight on UK soil is a key moment along that journey to our goal.”

Group Captain Rutledge, RAF Programme Director for Protector, said:

“Achieving the first flight of Protector in UK Airspace is a fitting milestone for this phase of testing, representing an outstanding team effort. We will now build on this success and look forward to the next Test & Evaluation phase as part of our preparations for the In Service Date later next year.”

You can read more on this here.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Jim
Jim
4 months ago

Really want to see us procure the Seaspray radar for these and start using them for MPA as well. Perfect to beef up the P8 fleet. Also dead handy for stations like the Falklands.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Agreed, I think that is inevitable.

Joe16
Joe16
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Yes, I think they market the modification package under Sea Guardian- which makes perfect sense for us. Surface search radar and E/O sensors, signal relay equipment, sonobuoy dispensers, and I believe the hardpoints will take Stingray (if we were to integrate it)
They even do a STOL wing kit for it- so we could deploy them on the carriers.

Toby J
Toby J
4 months ago

Is it coincidence that this took place at almost the same time as the Navy’s Mojave demonstration? They are similar aircraft that are designed for similar roles.

Joe16
Joe16
4 months ago
Reply to  Toby J

Yes, I believe they do a similar wing kit for the MQ-9B, so we could theoretically expand our fleet slightly and have a level of commonality between RN and RAF drones as well as jets.
I thintt hat makes more sense than getting the Mojave, which is based on the MQ-1 I believe

Cripes
Cripes
4 months ago

Good news, these are essential for the RAF to replace not only the 10 MQ9 Reapers but also18 recon aircraft scrapped in the last 2 years, Sentinel, Defender and Islander. The RAF wanted 22 Protectors to equip 3 squadrons, they got 16 to equip 2. Overall, +16 -28 = net loss of 12 aircraft. Wearily familiar. Ref Protectors for the navy, does the RN have the budget to cover it? They are not cheap, something like £40m a pop IIRC. At the last count, 75% of the mega black hole in the service’s equipment budget was down to the RN,… Read more »

Jon
Jon
4 months ago
Reply to  Cripes

The Protector project is currently estimated to cost over £1.75bn for 16, so once you get all the bits and bobs to go with them, training, maintenance, spare parts, operational costs, etc, £40m is just a starter. I’d hope that with the RAF already having some the project costs sorted, the navy could piggy back and bring them in for less, but these are definitely not a cheap option. There’s a bit of debate going on in the US about whether or not they are worth it. They are large, non-stealthy and don’t carry anything in the way of self… Read more »