The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed a £100m deal with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems to develop unmanned aerial vehicles for use by the Royal Air Force (RAF).

The contract will see the development of Protector remotely piloted air system in order to improve intelligence gathering and firepower of the RAF.

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “Britain faces ever-evolving threats and we must look at innovative solutions to stay ahead of our enemies.

"Doubling investment in our unmanned air fleet will substantially enhance both the intelligence gathering and firepower of the RAF."

"Doubling investment in our unmanned air fleet will substantially enhance both the intelligence gathering and firepower of the RAF.

“The UK’s security partnership with the US is the deepest and most advanced of any two nations on earth; this programme is part of a further strengthening which will help keep Britain safe and secure.”

The Protector will be equipped with latest technology, including advanced imaging and enhanced datalink technology to provide improved range and endurance, greater weapons capacity, automated take-off and landing and better resilience against the elements.

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It may also be armed with UK-manufactured Brimstone 2 missiles and Paveway IV laser-guided bombs.

MoD Defence Equipment & Support organisation CEO Tony Douglas said: “Protector is a highly advanced system which will use world-beating technology to give us a decisive advantage on the battlefield.

“This contract signature is not only great news for our armed forces, but demonstrates how the strong relationship between UK Defence and our allies helps to ensure best value for the taxpayer.”

The UK and the US have recently signed a joint agreement to explore the impact that robotic and autonomous systems might have on resupplying the military.