The Ministry of Defence has signed a contract worth around £100 million to test the UK's Protector aircraft.
The Protector will be the first remotely controlled aircraft capable of attacking targets anywhere in the world. It is expected to be in service with the Royal Air Force by 2024.
Design built on Reaper model
The Protector arrived at RAF Fairford last summer. Britain will take delivery of 20 of the aircraft which have a design which builds on the old Reaper system.
Under the new contract, General Atomics will test and report back on the aircraft’s performance in advance of its introduction to the frontline.
The drone, which has also been known as the MQ-9B SkyGuardian, will be fitted with the Brimstone Missile and Paveway bomb systems and will use onboard sensors to avoid other aircraft.
World’s first certified Remotely Piloted Air System
Protector will become fully certified to fly missions from RAF Waddington, the base already responsible for operating the Reaper aircraft.
The new aircraft will replace the Reaper and become the world’s first certified Remotely Piloted Air System, meaning it can operate in civilian airspace.
The drone's design allows for near-unlimited payload options in the future. Protector will be able to fly consistently for up to 40 hours and can be deployed across the full sp operations, including ISTAR, search and rescue, flood prevention or disaster response missions. With advanced anti-icing and lightning protection, Protector will provide the RAF with the flexibility to operate in adverse weather conditions.
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