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 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).
GA-ASI announced in April that the first Protector for the UK, company designation BC04/UK1, was already in the early stages of production, and will first be used for platform and weapons testing ahead of being handed over to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).
In July 2018 the then Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, announced that 31 Squadron will be stood up as the Protector’s first operational unit at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.