US firm General Atomics Aeronautical Systems has signed a series of contracts with leading UK defence suppliers, including MBDA, Raytheon UK and BAE Systems, for the armament and integration of the UK Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Protector unmanned air vehicle remotely piloted air system (RPAS).

Under separate contracts, MBDA will integrate its Brimstone high-precision strike missile on the RAF Protector RG Mk1 RPAS. Raytheon UK will integrate its Paveway IV dual mode GPS and laser-guided missile.

The integration of MBDA’s Brimstone missile onto the General Atomics aircraft will enable the RAF’s ISTAR force to engage high-speed moving and manoeuvring targets, including maritime fast attack craft.

MBDA UK Sales director James Allibone said: “Protector RG Mk1 is the third UK air platform to benefit from the unmatched capabilities of the Brimstone missile, providing UK Armed Forces with vital operational advantages and sovereign defence capabilities.

"Brimstone is unique in its ability to be carried by platforms in all domains, land, sea and air, providing a common weapon that delivers both operational and cost benefits."

“Brimstone is unique in its ability to be carried by platforms in all domains, land, sea and air, providing a common weapon that delivers both operational and cost benefits. Commonality is a key part of all MBDA’s latest systems, and is a major contributor to the £1.7bn in savings that the partnership approach between the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and MBDA has generated.”

The Protector RPAS, which is the weaponised version of MQ-9B SkyGuardian, is capable of carrying three lightweight Brimstones per weapon station. As a result, the RG Mk1 offers a higher loadout than the Reaper platform it is set to replace.

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Another of the top UK defence suppliers, BAE Systems, will collaborate with General Atomics on the integration of  RAF Protector into the UK’s national airspace.

Last year, General Atomics received a £400m contract from the UK MOD for the capability sustainment programme (CSP) of Brimstone missile. The scope of the contract involves building new missiles and extending the Brimstone missile’s service life beyond 2030.

–Additional reporting by Talal Husseini.