Britain’s unmanned ambition

Tim Ripley looks at the Royal Air Force Protector project that will take the UK remotely piloted air system capability forward.

A computer-generated image of an RAF Protector armed with Brimstone missiles and Paveway bombs. The MOD is investing £100m to integrate the MBDA Brimstone 2 and Raytheon Paveway IV dual-mode guided bomb.
MBDA/Andrea Izzotti

In August 2015, a Royal Air Force General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted air system (RPAS) carried out the first-ever missile strike against British-born members of the so-called Islamic State (IS) terrorist group inside the Syrian city of Raqqa. The political significance of the strike was reinforced by the then Prime Minister David Cameron personally announcing the attack to the British Parliament. This was not an event that could be made public in a low-key press release on the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD’s) website. A few weeks later, Cameron made clear that he wanted the RAF to preserve the option to make similar strikes against terrorist safe havens into the future. The RAF would therefore receive a new RPAS that would remain credible for many decades to come.

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