The UK’s first Protector RG Mk1 aircraft has successfully completed its first flight after coming off the production line on Friday, September 25.
Protector RG Mk1, is said to replace the current Reaper Force when it is introduced to the RAF.
The aircraft will be capable of being flown anywhere in the world while being operated by personnel located at their home base at RAF Waddington. It will enter service by mid-2024.
Defence Minister Jeremy Quin, said “The inaugural flight of the UK’s first Protector is an exciting and welcome step in the development of our ground-breaking fleet. With increased range and endurance, greater ISR and weapons capacity and improved weather resilience, Protector will play a vital intelligence and deterrent role in countering future threats.”
This first Protector aircraft will remain in the US to support system testing as part of a combined UK MOD, US Air Force and GA-ASI test team. Upon completion of this initial testing, it will be delivered to the MOD in the summer of 2021 but will remain in the USA to complete the RAF’s test and evaluation programme.
This is the first of the three Protector aircraft currently on order, although the contract includes an option for the remaining 13 aircraft to complete the currently planned fleet of 16 aircraft.
Protector will be deployed in wide-ranging Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations and in search and rescue and disaster response missions. It has ability to fly consistently for up to 40 hours.
The aircraft will use enhanced data links and carry next-generation, low-collateral, precision strike weapons –the UK-made Brimstone missile (MBDA) and Paveway IV Laser Guided Bomb (Raytheon UK).
The fleet will also have advanced anti-icing and lightning protection, providing the RAF with unprecedented flexibility to operate in adverse weather conditions.