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UK pushes on with Protector fleet expansion

26th July 2021 - 15:23 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Protector RG Mk 1 UAV. (Photo: UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

The UK orders 13 more MQ-9B SkyGuardian UAVs from General Atomics for the RAF, despite criticism over the cost of the programme.

The UK MoD has exercised a contract option with General Atomics for 13 additional Protector RG Mk 1 (MQ-9B SkyGuardian) UAVs, despite a recent report from the National Audit Office (NAO) that criticised the cost of the RAF procurement programme.

UK defence procurement minister Jeremy Quin announced the £195 million ($268.28 million) deal on 22 July.

Twelve UK defence companies will have workshare — for example, GKN Aerospace will be responsible for manufacturing some components.

The first three Protector aircraft were ordered in 2020; the initial pair is now currently undergoing test and evaluation in the US. The first aircraft delivery to the RAF will be in 2023 with entry into service the following year, the MoD announced on 22 July.

Quin claimed: ‘Our fleet of sixteen Protector aircraft equipped with ultra-modern technology will provide the RAF with a vast global reach allowing us to monitor and protect the battlespace for hours on end.’

However, in its report published on 24 June, the NAO highlighted Protector as the MoD procurement programme with the largest cost increase, adding that IOC is delayed by more than two years.

Figures showed that Protector costs shot up by 74% between its initial cost evaluation and the year of acquisition approval.

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