In September 2019, the UK Ministry of Defence signed a $128 million contract with the US defence company General Atomics to test the Protector unmanned aerial vehicles, which are due to enter service with the Royal Air Force by 2024.
The British Defence Ministry has acknowledged that pilot shortages and a hefty cost overrun may negatively impact the Royal Air Force (RAF)’s next-generation drone programme to replace the Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with the more sophisticated Protector drones.
In a letter to MPs seen by The Times, Sir Stephen Lovegrove, the MoD permanent secretary, told the Commons public accounts committee that the cost of the Protector UAVs had overrun by 40 percent to stand at more than £1.1 billion ($1.4 billion).
“The most significant risk is the RAF’s ability to generate and sustain the volume of trained personnel necessary to assure initial operating capability in November 2023”, Lovegrove said, adding that training and retaining drone crews “has historically proved challenging”.
Despite the fact that all this represents “a breach of programme tolerances”, continuing with the purchase of 16 Protector drones remains the best option, according to Lovegrove.
“Protector [UAV] is at the leading edge of innovative technology and will provide the UK with an armed intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance capability that is currently unparalleled”, he underlined. (end of excerpt)
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