RAF Waddington To Operate New Protector Drone


RAF Waddington will operate the Air Force’s new Protector aircraft, the Defence Secretary has announced.

The Protector drone arrived at RAF Fairford, currently hosting Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT), from the United States, on Wednesday.

Waddington will be the main operating base for the aircraft and is already responsible for operating the Reaper aircraft.

Speaking at RIAT, Gavin Williamson said: "The Royal International Air Tattoo is a perfect example of how Britain continues to lead the way in air power, showing the story from the historic Lancaster to the stealthy F-35 Lightning and now the incredible arrival of the Protector.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson arrives at RIAT
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson spoke about new RAF capabilities at RIAT.

"Today’s show embodies how our RAF continue to have the equipment they need to protect our country and our interests around the world."

The RAF paraded their new centenary colours at RIAT.

Protector Drone landing at RAF Fairford

In an historic first, the aircraft flew non-stop from North Dakota, US, to Gloucestershire in a flight that took just over 20 hours, making it the first Medium Altitude Long Endurance Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) to transit across the Atlantic.

The aircraft will contribute to Homeland and Defence tasks including military aid to civil authorities, armed intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition until beyond the mid-2030s.

The Protector aircraft will be based at RAF Waddington, with planned investment of £93 million to construct a new purpose-built hangar as well new facilities and accommodation for crews.

Defence Minister Guto Bebb meets RAF officers at RIAT
Defence Minister Guto Bebb with Protector and RAF officers at RIAT.

Defence Minister Guto Bebb said: "Protector’s arrival in the UK marks a significant milestone in our determination to target future threats that we face.

"The Protector will bring us an opportunity to enhance our armed surveillance abilities and increase our weapons payloads to deter those who seek to do us harm.

"RAF Waddington is renowned as the home of the UK’s eyes and ears in the sky, providing critical information about activity on the ground, in the air and at sea.

Defence Minister Guto Bebb with RAF officer at RIAT
Defence Minister Guto Bebb at RIAT.

"Protector will help reinforce this capability and will not only give us a decisive advantage on the battlefield but will help us reach new heights to keep us safe at home and overseas."

It will be able to contribute to an array of homeland defence tasks, including search and rescue, disaster monitoring or flood prevention activities.

Protector Drone landing at RAF Fairford

The Protector is also the world’s first RPAS to be designed, built and certified against stringent NATO and UK safety standards – meaning it can operate over populated areas.

The Defence Secretary also presented two British pilots with 1,000 flying hour certificates after they reached the milestone in the submarine-hunting P8-A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft being purchased by the UK.

Squadron Leaders Mark Faulds and Ian Tuff reached the achievement as part of their time training in the Seedcorn crew with the United States Navy.

The UK has ordered nine of the aircraft, investing £3 billion over the next decade in its Maritime Patrol Capability.

The Defence Secretary recently cut the first turf on a £132 million facility for the new fleet at RAF Lossiemouth.

Protector Drone landing at RAF Fairford

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