The Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom (RAF – Royal Air Force) announced last Friday, November 17, that its new aircraft had made its maiden flight in the United Kingdom. The Protector RG Mk1, a remotely piloted air system, took to the skies above RAF Waddington in a major milestone in providing surveillance, reconnaissance and precision strike aircraft to the front line.
The first of 16 remotely piloted Protector aircraft arrived at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire in September and underwent rigorous tests and trials before entering the RAF fleet.
The largest (24m wingspan) and most advanced remote pilot aircraft flying in UK airspace, the Protector successfully taxied and flew a series of circuits around RAF Waddington Airfield, always under pilot control via its advanced ground-based cabin.
Equipped with a suite of surveillance equipment, the Protector aircraft will provide the UK with a vital global surveillance capability, with a low footprint and remotely operated from RAF Waddington. It can operate at an altitude of 40,000 feet with an autonomy of over 30 hours.
The Protector will carry out a wide range of missions, including land and maritime surveillance, to monitor threats, combat terrorism and support UK civil authorities, assisting HM Coastguard in search and rescue operations.
Taking over the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) roles currently carried out by Reaper, which has rendered exceptional service in 24-hour operations for over 15 years, the Protector will be certified with stringent quality protection and NATO certification. , which allows it to operate in UK and European civil airspace.
A further 15 aircraft manufactured by General Atomics in the US will arrive in the UK in a phased delivery over the next few years. All the aircraft are expected to be delivered and in service by July 2025.
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