Cover image: Protector RPAS (Picture: RAF).

New Protector aircraft example to fly from RAF Waddington

Cover image: Protector RPAS (Picture: RAF).

A pre-production example of the RAF's new Protector Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) is to operate from RAF Waddington later this year.

A SkyGuardian aircraft will arrive at the Lincolnshire base in July.

It will be operated by manufacturer General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems.

Air Commodore Richard Barrow, ACOS Capability C2ISR, said: "The return of SkyGuardian, which will be known as Protector in RAF service in 2023, to the UK this summer offers an exciting glimpse of the future."

The aircraft will take part in the multinational large-scale Exercise Joint Warrior and will undertake a series of capabilities demonstrations.

Operating in the UK will help with the development of the Detect and Avoid technology that will allow Protector to fly safely in all UK airspace, the RAF said.

It will also permit the Royal Air Force to refine the requirements needed to fully integrate Protector operations into Waddington.

Last July, the UK signed a £65m contract to build its first three Protectors – the first UK-operated system capable of strike missions anywhere in the world.

The UK's first Protector aircraft completed its maiden flight in September last year (Picture: RAF).
The UK's first Protector aircraft completed its maiden flight in September last year (Picture: RAF).

As the first phase of acquisition, the UK has ordered the first three Protector RG Mk 1 systems consisting of three aircraft, three ground control stations and supporting equipment.

An additional 13 aircraft, four ground control stations and support equipment are expected this year.

The UK's first Protector aircraft completed its maiden flight in the US in September last year.

Protector is an advanced, medium altitude long endurance RPAS which is set to replace the RAF’s Reaper fleet.

The aircraft will enhance armed Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability.

"Protector will be able to fly for up to 40 hours in civil airspace, meaning it will be able to deliver an array of military or civil support missions," Air Commodore Barrow said.

It will also be the first RPAS to be designed, built and certified against stringent NATO and UK Safety Certification standards equivalent to manned aircraft, according to the Air Force.

Cover image: Protector RPAS (Picture: RAF).

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