The Royal Air Force’s (RAF) newest aircraft have made their first flight in the UK.
“The Protector RG Mk1, a remotely piloted aircraft system, has taken to the skies over Waddington Air Base, marking another important milestone in the delivery of surveillance, intelligence and precision attack aircraft to the front line,” they indicated from the RAF.
The first of 16 remotely piloted Protectors arrived at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, in September and is undergoing a series of rigorous tests and trials before joining the RAF fleet.
Capable of operating globally with minimal deployment and remotely piloted from RAF Waddington, it can operate at altitudes of up to 40,000 feet with an endurance of over 30 hours.
“Protector, the largest and most advanced remotely piloted aircraft ever to fly in UK airspace, successfully taxied and flew a series of circuits around RAF Waddington airfield, all the while under the control of a pilot through its advanced cockpit on the ground,” the RAF announced.
Equipped with a suite of surveillance equipment, Protector will provide the UK with a critical global surveillance capability, all remotely piloted from RAF Waddington.
The Defender can perform a wide range of tasks, including land and sea surveillance to track threats, counter-terrorism and support the UK civil authorities, such as assisting the British Coastguard in search and rescue missions.
“In addition to receiving the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) functions currently performed by Reaper, which has provided exceptional service in 24-hour operations for over 15 years, Protector will be certified to strict NATO safety and certification standards, which will allow it to operate in British and European civil airspace,” the RAF pointed out.
The arrival in the United Kingdom of another 15 aircraft from General Atomics will take place in a phased manner over the coming years. All aircraft are expected to be delivered and in service by July 2025.