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First Protector technicians graduation

The first Royal Air Force engineers trained as Dedicated Cross-Skilled Technicians have graduated in the United States.  

At a ceremony held at the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. facility in El Mirage, California, the graduates received certificates from Officer Commanding 31 Squadron, Wing Commander MacColl, confirming their qualification on the Protector RG1, the RAF’s new remotely piloted air system.

Image shows a RAF Protector RG1 Mk 1 on a airfield.
The RAF’s new remotely piloted air system , the Protector RG1 Mk 1.

The 20 students graduated from the initial part of their training, comprising of a blend of classroom-based theory and practical assessment, in December. There followed a six-week period which included live operation of the air system. 

The graduation of the first cohort of RAF technicians from our training facility in the USA, marks a transition in the Protector programme as we prepare to accept the first deliveries of Protector to RAF Waddington later this year. These engineers are fundamental to our ability to safely operate the next generation of remotely piloted air system capability and precede the start of aircrew training in the coming weeks. This is an exciting time for the programme for which we continue our strong partnership with GA-ASI to build new capability for the ISTAR Force.

Air Commodore Hicks
Assistant Chief of Staff Cap ISR

Image shows RAF aviators sitting in the audience of a presentation room before speaker.

The role of Protector Technician represents a new approach to engineering and brings together the traditional roles of Weapons Technician, Avionics Technician, and Mechanical Technician. This affords greater flexibility when deploying in support of operations overseas. Individuals will undertake all tasks up to the point that the aircraft chocks are removed before aircrew, situated at RAF Waddington, take control.

This is an important milestone for the Protector programme as we continue to build toward the first aircraft arriving in the UK. The first cohort of Protector Technicians have brought a wealth of experience from other RAF platforms which has proven invaluable in shaping a new and innovative way of operating the amazing capability Protector represents. I wish all every success.

Squadron Leader Douglas
Senior Engineering Officer, 31 Squadron

Image shows the Royal Air Force painted writing on the side of the Protector RG1 Mk 1 on a airfield.

The Technicians will now return to the UK to prepare for the arrival of the first of 16 Protectors which will operate from RAF Waddington from next year. This will include developing training courses for international partners within the wider Protector programme. 

Throughout my RAF career I have been a specialist Weapons Technician previously serving on Typhoon. The training I’ve received over the past few months has broadened my skillset immensely and I’m looking forward to the additional responsibility that will come with working in small teams operating the aircraft at deployed operating locations.

Chief Technician Matt

Image shows RAF aviators sitting in the audience of a presentation room before speaker.

Equipped with a suite of advanced equipment and precision strike weapons, Protector will provide critical armed surveillance capability and will be able to deploy against potential adversaries around the globe. The aircraft will also be able to fly in busy unsegregated airspace due to ‘detect and avoid’ technology.

Read more about the RAF Protector