UK selects RAF Waddington station to house Protector drone fleet
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UK selects RAF Waddington station to house Protector drone fleet

10 Sep 2021 (Last Updated September 10th, 2021 09:10)

All 16 Protector remotely piloted aircraft, which are currently on order, will be based at RAF Waddington.

UK selects RAF Waddington station to house Protector drone fleet
Protector drones are scheduled to enter service in 2024. The image shows the SkyGuardian aircraft flying on a sortie over RAF Waddington. Credit: © 2021 Royal Air Force. UK Crown Copyright.

The UK Government has selected Royal Air Force (RAF) Waddington air station as the home of the Protector International Training Centre.

The air station in Lincolnshire will host all 16 Protector remotely piloted aircraft that are currently on order for the RAF.

The government will invest a total of £94m in infrastructural improvements to enable RAF Waddington to house the entire fleet of drones.

A prototype of the uncrewed aircraft also conducted a flight from the base as part of the preparations.

The Protector aircraft are scheduled to enter service in 2024.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Today marks a huge milestone in the Protector programme, bringing us one step closer to delivering this world-leading capability to the RAF.

“This £94m investment cements RAF Waddington’s place as the UK’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) hub, ensuring our Protector fleet can operate safely and effectively for many years to come.”

A new campus will be developed at RAF Waddington that will include the Protector International Training Centre.

The centre will house the Synthetic Training System and will enable RAF and allied crew to conduct a significant amount of their training in a secure environment.

The campus will also feature new single living accommodation for Protector ground crews, office facilities, a hangar, a new road to the Protector area of RAF Waddington and a new taxiway.

Contracts for infrastructure improvements will be awarded in the upcoming months and are expected to support many local jobs.

Notably, General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has been contracted to deliver SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft, which will be known as Protector aircraft following its induction into the RAF.

The drones can operate at a maximum altitude of 40,000ft and can conduct missions of up to 40 hours. Protector is capable of conducting an array of military operations and supporting civil authorities.