$125 Million Deal for 10 More Drones
Speaking at a defence conference at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, Britain’s Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced on 3 December that the RAF’s fleet of REAPER armed UAS is to double, from 10 to 20.
The $125 million development deal with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems cements a commitment made last year by then Prime Minister David Cameron in the Strategic Defence & Security Review. “Doubling investment in our unmanned air fleet will substantially enhance both the intelligence gathering and firepower of the RAF,” the Minister announced.
To be known as PROTECTOR in RAF service, the new drone will be a variant of the existing REAPER, with an automatic take-off and landing capability. It will also be armed with the BRIMSTONE 2 rather than HELLFIRE missile, and will carry the PAVEWAY IV laser guided bomb. Test flights are scheduled for 2019 and initial operating capability for 2021. The US State Department notified Congress last week that the UK intends to buy a total of 26 PROTECTORs at a development cost of up to $1 billion.