A new Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) ordered for the Royal Air Force will fly non-stop from the United States to RAF Fairford in the UK on the 11th of July, say the MoD.

The UK is the lead customer for the next-generation aircraft which will be known as the Protector RG Mk.1 when it enters service in the early 2020’s. Operated at all times by a fully qualified pilot, Protector is the World’s first RPAS to be designed, built and certified against stringent NATO and UK Safety Certification standards equivalent to manned aircraft.

The MoD say that the flight from North Dakota to Gloucestershire is likely to take over 20 hours and will be the first across the Atlantic by a Medium Altitude RPAS and the first time one has entered UK airspace under beyond line-of-sight communication control.

The Protector, new Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS).

The Minister for Defence Procurement, Guto Bebb MP said:

“Protector’s first arrival in the UK is an exciting milestone in our mission to get the most advanced equipment to combat the intensifying threats that we face.

With almost double the endurance of its predecessor and armed with the latest missiles and surveillance technology, this unmanned aircraft will not only give us a decisive advantage on the battlefield but will help us reach new heights to keep Britain safe at home and overseas.”

Air Vice-Marshal Rochelle, Chief of Staff Capability said:

“The first trans-Atlantic flight of the Protector reinforces the Royal Air Force as being at the forefront of cutting edge technology. Offering over 40 hours’ endurance Protector will provide the RAF with unrivalled intelligence gathering possibilities.

The decision to expand our Remotely Piloted Air System fleet with this world leading aircraft will offer a game changing leap in capability and marks the next step in our modernisation in our 100th year.”

Protector is capable of supporting an array of homeland defence tasks, including Military Aid to Civil Authorities – for example search and rescue, disaster monitoring or flood prevention activities.

For the first flight across the Atlantic to succeed the RAF provided guidance, advice and supervision of UK airspace procedures.

The aircraft will be placed on static display at the Royal International Air Tattoo, say the MoD.

38 COMMENTS

  1. Could we not modify this platform to work alongside our P8’s and another variant alongside wedge tails if we get them?
    I’m not in the know as to whether the platform could carry the sensors needed, but if it can, it would be a cheap way to augment the limited numbers of manned planes and cover much larger areas giving us a world leading system.

    • Gong out on a limb I would have presumed that the Protector doesn’t have the power generation capability to operate many sensors. Which could explain why the US/Australia and Germany have settled for the MQ-4C Triton. Which could also fill that P8 shortfall on the cheap.(Well not so cheap,)

  2. The days of manned military aircraft must surely be coming to an end. To think this was almost predicted back in time by Duncan Sandys. It does make me wonder about the future of the carriers and whether the F35 will see out many years surely to be replaced by drones with controllers on board the ships.

    • The problem with Sandy’s was that he may have been right but he was 50 years too early and in the process destroyed the british aviation industry.

  3. Is there much UK tech in this in terms of sensor suite etc or is it all US based. If you compare it to the MALE effort being pushed by France, Germany, Italy and Spain it looks 10 years ahead of it in terms of design and Radar cross section. It’s also now in production rather rather than a 10 year old technology demonstrator because Germany still isn’t comfortable arming drones. The UK really should avoid any European collaboration as it will only increase costs and delay them decades through political wrangling on capabilities and work share.

    • If you look at Bae’s Mantis platform it’s very close to the Euro MALE platform. Considering Mantis first flight was 2009 I don’t know why we never continued development. I guess another bad decision made due to funding.

  4. IMO. Robotic’s will be the next generation of ‘Front Line’ Air….ships and underwater warfare.

  5. I was going to ask why Fairford until I reached the end of the article.

    If they are flyable in UK airspace will any be based here? At least for training?

    The current Watchkeepers ( What few there are that are not in mothballs ) were only flying out of the old RAE Aberporth airfield using the Cardigan Bay testing range. They were also cleared to use parts of SPTA under carefully controlled conditions from Boscombe. That seems to have been replaced by flights from Ascension.

    The Reapers have never flown in the UK due to safety concerns.

    Would be nice to see one without having to be some poor sod in the Middle East on the recieving end.

  6. It didn’t mention if they require refueled on their trip across the Atlantic. If not that is some ferry range, considering the F35 needed 12 top ups.

    • The F35 didn’t “need” 12 top ups as such, it was a precautionary measure to ensure they had enough to get to a base if something went wrong. Protector has over 40 hours endurance so it should be able to make the trip in one long hop.

  7. Bebb appears to confirm that Brimstone 2 and Paveway IV will arm Protector. Does anyone know if Brimstone 2 as it exists could be used for light naval strike? As Protector will be capable of operating in UK airspace, I don’t see why it could not be used to monitor Russian ships in sea areas of interest.

    • SPEAR 3 is the variant for naval strike. It would make sense for it to be integrated onto Protector in the future.

  8. Protector is a rare bit of good news for the MOD with numbers rising instead of falling. We need more unmanned systems, protector is great for Low threat environment but we need a deep strike and recon Taranis for A2/AD environment armed with SPEAR and Paveyway IV bunker busters.

    • We should definitely push ahead with Taranis, U.A.V.s are the future and Taranis will ensure we have a product in this field, it will be just the thing to keep our aerospace industry going. We should develop various versions of it (fighter, bomber, surveillance, maritime patrol, etc.).

  9. Hi Clive.. East Anglia

    Perhaps the 8 apaches l saw were involved with 16 air assault brigade (Colchester) not totally sure though, but very impressive to see.

    • That’s great. I was half expecting you to say somewhere in the USA, so that has put a smile on my face to hear it was actually in Blighty.

      • Some years back I would watch them hover over the reservoirs along the Lea between Enfield and Chingford. I rather presumed having heard how bright sun reflecting off of open water could effect their sensors, that they were targeting traffic on the road that intersects the reservoirs there to gain experience of any such effect. Many a car driver would have been oblivious of being the prey no doubt.

  10. Often see chinooks and one or two apaches flying over here but never had 8 before. I would say over the last couple of years there has been an increase in military helicopters flying over this area.

    • On the rare occasions when we get a military helicopter in our part of Staffs, it has usually gone by the time I get outside, and it always seems to be when I am inside.

      Luckily, that last Vulcan flight several years ago went almost over our house and what a sight that was. Terrified some kids playing on a neighbour’s garden and their parents rushed out thinking it was the crack of doom. lol

  11. In addition to the purchase of the MQ4C Triton (AIR 7000 Phase 1B) announced yesterday, Australia will acquire an armed medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) RPA (Air 7003 Phase 1).

    General Atomics and the Malat division of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) are competing for the contract with an indicative budget of $1billion to $2billion. They will be acquired in two tranches, the first in the 2021 time frame and the second about five years later.

    General Atomics is proposing the same variant of the Predator B platform being acquired by the UK. RAAF personnel already have experience on the MQ-9 embedded with the USAF 432nd Operations Group flying armed Reaper strikes over Syria.

    Israel Aerospace Industries contender is their Heron TP MALE RPA, which could leverage the RAAF’s operation of the (now retired) Heron 1 over 8 years in Afghanistan which uses the same ground control system.

  12. The picture looks like it has hard points for 14 weapons ? Is this correct or just an artists impression ? That would be a significant increase over reaper

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