British Prime Minister David Cameron’s belief in the priority of drones and special forces in the war against Islamic State appears to be coming to fruition as the UK government reveals its plans to acquire up to 20 advanced Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) known as Protector to replace the current fleet of 10 General Atomics MQ-9 Reapers. The Reaper drones (known as Remotely Piloted Vehicles or RPVs in British military parlance) have been at the forefront of the RAF’s war against Islamic State terrorists carrying out both reconnaissance and attack functions.
David Cameron made the announcement speaking to the Telegraph newspaper earlier this week but offered little more information on just what Protector is since no known system under that title exists although some defence analysts have speculated that it will be a version of the Israeli Hermes series (possibly the Hermes 900) which the British government has expressed interest in for quite some time. Some news sources have speculated that “Protector” is a blanket term for a British development of the Reaper Extended Range (ER) model of the current Reaper-B operated by the RAF but with a higher degree of British systems to ease the reliance on American support in the Reaper’s operation. It has also been speculated that Protector could be a British version of the General Atomic’s jet-powered derivative of the Reaper known as the Avenger.
With the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) not expected to be published until November further details are unlikely to be released until then.