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UK Royal Air Force Receives First Protector Drone

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has received its first of 16 Protector RG Mk 1 drones at Waddington Air Base in Lincolnshire, following its assembly by the RAF’s 31 Squadron.

The unmanned aerial vehicle will provide critical armed surveillance with precision strike weapons, reach an altitude of up to 40,000 feet (12,200 meters) and a flight endurance of over 30 hours.

Ground and air testing by 31 Squadron will commence in the following days, targeting a 2024 service date for the aircraft.

The Protector will undergo ground testing of satellite links and taxi procedures, as well as landing and take-off protocols.

The remaining 15 Protectors will arrive in a phased delivery, with the full fleet expected to be in service by 2025. It will replace the Royal Air Force’s Reaper MQ-9A drones.

A Collaborative Flight

Further trials for the new aircraft will require interoperability between RAF squadrons and evaluating personnel.

“The ISR Capability Team will be working with 56 Squadron, our test and evaluation experts, will put the aircraft through its paces to ensure it is ready for operational service next year, whilst the newly reformed 31 Squadron will focus on preparing to operate the aircraft in service,” Protector Programme Senior Responsible Officer Air Commodore Alex Hicks said.

Earlier this year, 54 Squadron served as the first Protector pilot team-in-training, having conducted drills at the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ facility in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Additionally, the drone will be evaluated according to NATO safety and certification standards to allow it to operate in UK and European civilian airspace.

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