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UK receives new Reaper UAV to support transition to Protector

The UK has 10 MQ-9A Reaper UAVs in its inventory once more, after the receipt of a single aircraft earlier in the year to replace a previously retired platform. (Crown Copyright)

The United Kingdom has received a new General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9A Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), bringing the fleet back up to full strength in support of the upcoming transition to the GA-ASI MQ-9B Protector RG1 platform.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed to Janes on 5 November that the single Block 1 MQ-9A ordered in April under its Second Operating Location Alternate Reaper (SOLAR) requirement had now been received by the Royal Air Force (RAF).

“An additional Reaper was purchased to ensure sufficient overall fleet hours are available to continue supporting operations and provide resilience for a seamless transition from Reaper to Protector in 2024,” an MoD spokesperson said.

With this latest arrival replacing an aircraft that was decommissioned in 2019, the UK Reaper fleet based out of RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire is now back up to its full complement of 10 UAVs. The first of 16 Protector UAVs are due to arrive at the same location in 2024.

The RAF is due to receive 16 Protectors, although the US government has approved the sale of 26. The Reapers are slated to be replaced by the Protectors, but this shortfall of 10 could be made up by the current Reaper fleet until the UK government is able to place a follow-on order. In September Group Captain Shaun Gee, Director Air intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) Programmes and lead for Protector entry into service, told Janes

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