UK agrees deal to double armed drone fleet
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has confirmed plans to double the UK’s armed drone fleet after agreeing a £100m deal with a US arms manufacturer.
The move, which was announced last year by then-prime minister David Cameron as part of the strategic defence review, will bring the capacity from 10 to 20.
Test flights of the drones, which feature an automated takeoff and landing capability, are planned for 2019, with the new weapons expected to be ready for integration into the UK fleet in 2021.
The drones, to be made by American firm General Atomics, will be variants of the US army’s Reaper, the more advanced version of the Predator, although the UK is set to brand them the Protector.
UK-manufactured Brimstone 2 missiles will be used in the drones, rather than the Hellfire missiles used by US forces.
Mr Fallon said the deal marked a big boost in terms of “firepower, imaging and intelligence gathering” for UK forces.
“Britain faces ever evolving threats and we must look at innovative solutions to stay ahead of our enemies”, he said.
He added: “Doubling investment in our unmanned air fleet will substantially enhance both the intelligence-gathering and firepower of the RAF.”