Britain unveiled their version of the Predator B drone called the Protector drone. This new armed surveillance drone can now strike terrorists with precision missiles, laser-guided bombs, and will be able to remain airborne for up to 40 hours.
The Protector done coupled with Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) can now take off, land anywhere in the world controlled via satellite link from a remote base. Moreover, with anti-icing and lightning protection, missions in adverse weather conditions are also possible. Thus, RAF pilots will be able to attack targets anywhere around the world from their home base in Waddington, Lincolnshire, without having to deploy ground crews.
The MoD announced that the first Predator B lookalike flew from Yuma in Arizona to Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. From the Creech Base, the RAF’s 39 Squadron has been flying missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere since 2007 using the older MQ-9 Reaper drones. Air Vice-Marshal Harv Smyth, commander of the RAF’s intelligence and surveillance forces, was impressed with the minimal after-flight attention the aircraft required.
A highly advanced aerial weapon
It will carry up to 18 Brimstone missiles, which have been used to attack moving targets such as armored vehicles, as well as Paveway IV laser-guided bombs, spread across nine weapons points on the aircraft. Built by US company General Atomics and due to enter service in 2024. The Protector will be operated by a crew of three, comprising a Pilot, a Sensor Operator, and a Mission Intelligence Coordinator.
As soon as the 38ft long aircraft is certified to fly in European airspace, they could potentially be used in Nato intelligence-gathering missions in eastern Europe. The Protector drone has a 50 percent increase in payload capacity compared to the Predator B, thus allowing it to carry more varieties of sensors and weapons.
The Protector program, speculated to cost in the region of £1 billion, is two years late as the MoD had to reorganize and stretch the spending, due to the pound weakening against the dollar.