It has emerged that the Royal Air Force is considering using unmanned aircraft in a maritime patrol role to complement the P-8 Poseidon.

Air Cdre Ian Gale said at the Royal Aeronautical Society’s UAV conference:

“Today we see value in its radar doing maritime patrol alongside the P-8.”

The United Kingdom had earlier announced that it intends to place an order for the Certifiable Predator B as part of its Protector MALE UAV programme.

General Atomics modified the Reaper platform into the certifiable Predator B in order to make it compliant with European flight regulations to get more sales by European countries. In order to fly over national airspace, the aircraft meets airworthiness requirements with lightning protection, different composite materials, and sense and avoid technology.

According to the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Royal Air Force will operate at least 20 Protector systems by 2025, replacing all of its current 10 MQ-9 Reapers.

According to a justification for a ‘sole-source award notification’ published on the 24th of April, the MoD has given General Atomics a GBP415 million (USD605 million) contract for the UAV. While the award did not disclose numbers, the UK government has previously said 20 will be procured.

According to the MoD:

“The Unmanned Air Systems Team of the UK Ministry of Defence intends to acquire the Protector unmanned aerial system through a government-government Foreign Military Sales contract with the US Department of Defense (DoD).

The MoD has conducted a thorough Assessment Phase that has concluded that the CPB is the only system capable of achieving UK Military Type Certification and delivering the Protector requirement within the required timescales. The only means of acquiring the CPB is through a contract with the US DoD”

In February, General Atomics announced that the long-endurance Predator B, which will eventually increase the flight time of the Reaper from 27h to 40h, had carried out its first flight. The aircraft is also expected to have a much greater payload than Reaper.


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