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22 Jul 21. £195m contract signed for 13 additional RAF Protectors. A £195m contract for a further 13 cutting-edge Protector aircraft has been signed. Defence Minister Jeremy Quin announced the new contract during a visit to GKN Aerospace (GKNA), who are manufacturing key parts of aircraft on the Isle of Wight. Protector is a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) that will provide critical surveillance capability for the RAF and will be equipped with a suite of surveillance equipment and precision strike weapons to deploy against potential adversaries around the globe, all while being operated from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.
16 aircraft have now been ordered from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) and are expected to enter service with the RAF by mid-2024, doubling the capability currently provided by Reaper. The investment also includes four additional ground control stations and associated support equipment.
At GKNA’s Cowes site, Minister Quin saw first-hand how the programme benefits UK industry as they manufacture the V-tails for Protector and other SkyGuardian variants for customers across the world, including Belgium and Australia, following their partnership with GA-ASI.
Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said, “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. The Protector programme involves industry across the UK with vital parts of the aircraft manufactured on the Isle of Wight, supporting highly-skilled jobs for years to come.”
The commitment to a 16-strong Protector fleet was outlined in the Defence Command Paper and is supported by the £24bn uplift to the defence budget over the next four years.
With 12 UK industry partners, the programme is bringing together world-leading technology and service providers to work with GA-ASI, supporting over 200 UK jobs with £400m being reinvested into UK industry.
Protector will be deployed in wide-ranging Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations where its ability to fly consistently for up to 40 hours offers the RAF vastly improved armed ISTAR capability.
Protector Programme Senior Responsible Owner, Air Commodore Richard Barrow said, “The contract for the additional 13 Protector aircraft, taking the total to 16, is a major milestone for the UK. When Protector enters service in 2024, UK Defence will take an enormous jump forward in capability, giving us the ability to operate globally with this cutting-edge, highly-adaptable platform.
The first three aircraft were ordered last year, with the first two completed and currently undergoing test and evaluation in the US. The first aircraft delivery to the RAF will be in 2023.”
CEO of Defence Equipment and Support, Sir Simon Bollom said, “I am delighted the purchase of a further 13 Protector aircraft has been confirmed enabling us to ensure the RAF will have the increased capability needed to operate effectively in the modern battlespace.”
Later this year, Protector’s capability will be demonstrated in the UK. A SkyGuardian aircraft will take to the skies in Lincolnshire before taking part in Exercise Joint Warrior from RAF Lossiemouth.
Protector will have to meet stringent NATO and UK safety certification standards meaning it could operate in civilian airspace. It therefore will also be available, if requested, to support civilian agencies in the UK, for example in search and rescue and disaster response missions.
The fleet will also have advanced anti-icing and lightning protection, providing the RAF with unprecedented flexibility to operate in adverse weather conditions.
The aircraft will use enhanced data links and carry next-generation, low collateral, precision strike weapons – the UK-made Brimstone missile and Paveway IV Laser Guided Bomb. (Source: https://www.gov.uk/)
21 Jul 21. Baykar Defence Publishes Supersonic UCAV Concept. Turkey’s Baykar Makina has published images of its concept for a jet-powered unmanned combat air vehicle concept that the company hopes to fly as a prototype in 2023. The company’s Combat Unmanned Aircraft System (MIUS) is described as a supersonic-capable, maneuverable aircraft.
The platform, which will be powered by the MIUS turbofan propulsion system, will be able to stay in the air for approximately five hours at an operational altitude of 40.000 feet. The MIUS, which will be able to work with the SATCOM data network without range restrictions, will have a cruise speed of 0,8 Mach. With its 1 ton ammunition carrying capacity, MIUS will be able to perform close air support, strategic attack missions, suppression/destruction of air defense systems and missile attack missions. (Source: UAS VISION/Facebook)
21 Jul 21. Aerostar to Assemble Watchkeeper in Romania. Romanian aircraft construction and repair company Aerostar and UK military joint-venture U-TacS have signed a memorandum for cooperation in the assembly of military drones in Bacau, the city mayor said.
“If the partnership is successful, Aerostar will assemble military drones. This will bring jobs and revenues for the people in Bacau, and of course, the satisfaction to endow the Romanian military with drones made in Bacau,”
Bacau mayor Lucian Daniel Stanciu Viziteu said in a social media post on Tuesday.
A joint venture company, UAV Tactical Systems Ltd (U-TacS), was set up in 2005 by Thales UK and Israel-based defence electronics manufacturer Elbit to produce the Watchkeeper unmanned aircraft system in the UK.
Aerostar is specialised in repairing and upgrading military aircraft, producing light aircraft, hydraulic equipment for aviation and piston engines as well as electronics and other specialized equipment. The company exports its products to countries in Europe, Asia, North America and the Middle East.
Privately-owned Romanian defence group IAROM owns a stake of 71.36% in Aerostar. Investment fund SIF Moldova owns 15.05%, while the rest is held by smaller-scale shareholders.
Aerostar’s shares traded flat at 5.5 lei ($1.3/1.1 euro) on the Bucharest Stock Exchange as at 1258 CET on Wednesday.
In August, Aerostar was designated as provider of maintenance services for the F-16 fighter jets of Romanian Air Force. (Source: UAS VISION/SeeNews)
The British Robotics Seed Fund is the first SEIS-qualifying investment fund specialising in UK-based robotics businesses. The focus of the fund is to deliver superior returns to investors by making targeted investments in a mixed basket of the most innovative and disruptive businesses that are exploiting the new generation of robotics technologies in defence and other sector applications.
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