Protector, the UK’s future Remotely Piloted Aircraft System type, has flown to Creech Air Force Base.

The trip gave members of the RAF Reaper Force the opportunity to see the aircraft for the first time.

In a release, the Royal Air Force say that 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.

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

Air Vice Marshal Harv Smyth, Air Officer Commanding No.1 Group said in a release:

“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.

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 also said in the release:

“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.”

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I thought we were doubling our drone numbers from 10 reapers to 20 protectors. Its saying 16 here.


Usual sleight of hand, mate…


Yeah looks that way pal.


Somebody predicted 16 a while back and correctly predicted the usual sleight of hand trickery to get to it. Tip of the hat to whoever you were

Daniele Mandelli

Never mind Creech.

When is a Protector going to visit RAF Waddington.


The issue with say 39 Sqn operating Reaper or Protector in the UK is the density of air traffic. This is also one of the issues that plagued Watchkeeper. How to operate the aircraft in airspace with civilian air traffic, especially when a lot of them don’t use IFF. It is now mandatory that all manned aircraft flying in the UK has a operating traffic alert system. On aircraft such as microlights and gliders this is very basic as it just gives an audio warning. On larger aircraft that have inertial navigation systems and IFF, the system has more features.… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Thanks as usual for the details Davey.

I had thought previously of a UK “Centre of Excellence” ( that’s been in vogue with MoD recently) for all UAV at the old RAE Llanbedr, north of Aberporth where our UAV, Target Drones and SAM are tested in the Cardigan Bay range areas.

Surely larger UAV like Protector coukd fly there.

Agree though UK has limited space and the USA has endless desert!

Rob Collinson

My understanding of the new protector was that one of the main reasons for selection was that it could be flown in the UK and elsewhere regardless of that density. Despite the UK being fairly small, there is still a lot of space!

Rob Collinson

Protector is a significant upgrade from Reaper and the equivalent of a 5th Gen to 3rd Gen type difference from Watchkeeper.

Daniele Mandelli

I remember when we bought the 4 Predators I was delighted, or were they Reapers?

So with the expansion to 10 and now to be 16 and a better system, plus part controlled from the UK, I feel we are well provided in this area.