UK signs for first three Protector UAVs

by Gareth Jennings

The UK has contracted General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) to deliver the first three Protector RG1 medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the Royal Air Force (RAF).

The UK has now signed for delivery of the first three of an initial 16 Protector RG1 UAVs. The country has a stated requirement for 20, although a US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notification of the proposed sale has put the number at 26. (General Atomics via Jane’s/Gareth Jennings)

The UK has now signed for delivery of the first three of an initial 16 Protector RG1 UAVs. The country has a stated requirement for 20, although a US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notification of the proposed sale has put the number at 26. (General Atomics via Jane’s/Gareth Jennings)

The deal, announced by UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on 15 July, is valued at GBP65 million (USD82 million) with the aircraft scheduled to enter service by 2024.

“It’s a major gear shift replacing Reaper with Protector, a remotely piloted aircraft with an incredible endurance which gives us global reach,” Wallace said at the ‘virtual’ Air & Space Power Association conference 2020.

This contract for the first three Protectors is part of a wider UK government investment in an initial 16 platforms to replace the nine MQ-9 Reapers (the government has a stated requirement for 20, though a US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notification of the proposed Protector sale has put the number at 26).


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UK Rivet Joint fleet ups tempo for Black Sea ops

by Richard Scott

The UK's RC-135W Rivet Joint fleet has been operating at almost 200% of the normal tempo. (Crown Copyright)

UK Royal Air Force (RAF) RC-135W Rivet Joint signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft have been operating at nearly three times their normal operating tempo to support intelligence-gathering operations in the Black Sea theatre, according to the service's senior operations officer.

Delivering the annual Sir Sydney Camm Lecture at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London on 1 February, Air Marshal Harvey Smyth, deputy commander (operations), added that operations over the last year had put crews “well within harm's way”.

Operated by No 51 Squadron at RAF Waddington, the three Rivet Joint aircraft – ZZ664, ZZ665, and ZZ666 – form part of a wider enterprise between the RAF and the United States Air Force (USAF). As part of the RAF's Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Force, the RC-135W fleet is used to monitor, collect, and analyse communications and radar signals of interest.


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Upgrade and retention of Tranche 1 Eurofighters ‘technically feasible', BAE Systems tells UK Parliament

by Gareth Jennings

Currently destined for retirement in 2025, the UK's Tranche 1 Eurofighter Typhoon force could be extended according to BAE Systems. (Janes/Patrick Allen)

There is no technical reason why the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) could not upgrade and retain its fleet of Tranche 1 Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft, BAE Systems told the country's parliamentary Defence Select Committee in January.

In a written response to the committee submitted on 23 January, the lead UK contractor in the Eurofighter consortium said that it would be “technically feasible” to bring the RAF's remaining 30 Tranche 1 jets up to a standard where they could be retained in service rather than retired in 2025, as currently planned.

“It is technically feasible to bring a Tranche 1 aircraft to the standard of a Tranche 2 or Tranche 3 aircraft. BAE Systems has previously provided data to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) that outlines the scope of structural and avionic modifications that would be required,” BAE Systems said, noting that it has not been asked to provide an assessment of the non-recurring design effort, or associated costs, to implement such an upgrade.


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DARPA selects General Atomics and Aurora Flight Sciences to design wing-in-ground effect lifters

by Zach Rosenberg

Aurora Flight Sciences' Liberty Lifter concept. (Aurora Flight Sciences)

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on 1 February selected two companies to design wing-in-ground effect (WIG) concepts for Phase 1 of the Liberty Lifter programme.

The 18-month contract is intended to advance designs from both General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) and Aurora Flight Sciences through preliminary design review (PDR), plus an additional three months for presentation and manufacturing planning.

The Liberty Lifter is intended to result in designs capable of flying 6,500 n mile with six standard cargo containers or two US Marine Corps (USMC) Amphibious Assault Vehicles, handling waves up to 13 ft high (Sea State 5) and flying up to a 10,000 ft altitude.

“The two teams have taken distinctly different design approaches that will enable us to explore a relatively large design space during Phase 1,” said Christopher Kent, DARPA programme manager.


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The UK has contracted General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) to deliver the first three P...

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