A General Atomics Predator B will cross the Atlantic under its own power for the first time as it makes its way for display at this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT).
To be known as the Protector RG Mk.1 in RAF service, the aircraft will fly non-stop from North Dakota to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire in about 20 hours. The flight will be the first crossing of the Atlantic by a medium altitude long endurance (MALE) remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), and the first time an unmanned system has operated beyond line of sight in UK airspace.
The Protector will be equipped with due-regard sensor, and will be manufactured and certified to NATO and UK Safety Certification standards equivalent to manned aircraft.
“The first trans-Atlantic flight of the Protector reinforces the Royal Air Force as being at the forefront of cutting edge technology,” Chief of Staff Capability Air Vice-Marshal Rochelle said in a statement. “Offering over 40 hours’ endurance, Protector will provide the RAF with unrivalled intelligence gathering possibilities.
“The decision to expand our Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) fleet with this world leading aircraft will offer a game changing leap in capability and marks the next step in our modernisation in our 100th year.”
UK Minister for Defence Procurement, Guto Bebb added, “Protector’s first arrival in the UK is an exciting milestone in our mission to get the most advanced equipment to combat the intensifying threats that we face.
“With almost double the endurance of its predecessor and armed with the latest missiles and surveillance technology, this unmanned aircraft will not only give us a decisive advantage on the battlefield but will help us reach new heights to keep Britain safe at home and overseas.”
The UK’s Protector configuration of the Predator B is likely to form the basis for General Atomics’ offering for the ADF’s Project AIR 7003, a decision on which is expected by the end of this year.