First RG.1 Protector arrives at RAF Waddington


First RG.1 delivered to the UK (PR009) pictured in ceremony at RAF Waddington (Photo RAF)

The first of 16 RG.1 Protector RPAS successfully brought over to the UK at RAF Waddington ceremony.

On Oct. 23, 2023, the RAF held a welcoming ceremony for the first RAF RG.1 Protector Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS) arriving in the country. A variation of the General Atomics MQ-9B, the RG.1 was first ordered by the British government in July 2020 as part of a £65 million contract. The airframe delivered today (PR009) is the first of 16 RG.1s from the initial deal.

The airframe arrived in the UK last September and has been undergoing preparation for entry of service, including an addition of squadron colours and roundel. It appears that while PR005 was the first airframe to be accepted into RAF hands, PR009 was the first to arrive in the UK, suspecting that PR005 still remains in southern California for the training of the first RAF RG.1 pilots. Since the signing of the contract, RAF personnel have been based in southern California, undergoing training on the platform in preparation for entry to service.

The RG.1 is planned to enter service in 2024 after ground and air trials.

Lately, preparation for the platform’s arrival to the RAF have been ramping up. The former Tornado GR4 operator, 31 Squadron was reformed on Oct. 11, 2023. The “Goldstars” are set to be the first unit to operate the British Protectors. Based at RAF Waddington, 31 Squadron have oversaw the delivery and reassembly of the first airframe. According to General Atomics, the aircraft was directly flown from El Mirage, California to Waddington via AN-124.

RG.1 with 31 Squadron colours. (Image credit: RAF/Crown Copyright)

With more airframes scheduled to arrive in the UK shortly, the RG1 will undergo a brief ground and air testing phase before its official entry to service in 2024. The first set of tests is said to involve ground testing of satellite links, followed shortly by taxi, take-off, and landing procedures. Thus, it is expected that the RG.1 will be able to be seen orbiting the skies of Lincolnshire in the coming months.

Wonwoo is a student journalist and contributor to The Aviationist based in London, United Kingdom. Currently studying MEng in Aeronautical Engineering with a keen interest in OSINT, plane spotting and aircraft design. He is a former Sergeant of the Republic of Korea Army, having served as an artillery Fire Direction Centre Vehicle Radio Operator.


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