13.1.2020

UK Protector program at risk

UK Defence Ministry Official Reveals Why RAF’s NextGen Drone Programme at ‘Most Significant Risk’ – link

Source: Sputnik News

© AFP 2019 / Isaac Brekken

Article Headlines

  • The Protector system is due to enter service with the Royal Air Force by 2024
  • The British Defence Ministry has acknowledged that pilot shortages and a hefty cost overrun may negatively impact the program
  • The Protector UAVs might overrun the initial budget by 40 percent to stand at more than £1.1 billion ($1.4 billion)
  • The remarks come amid increasing public concerns over the effects of drone warfareon the mental health of UAV operators who often suffer from psychological distress and fatigue, according to a recent study conducted by Ulster University
  • In this vein, The Times quoted Justin Bronk, research fellow for airpower at the London-based Royal United Services Institute, as saying that switching daily between potentially lethal operations and family life could be “extremely draining and psychologically taxing”
  • “The legal and ethical controversies surrounding their use are also clearly having an impact”, Bronk claimed as cited by The Times, also calling for a public debate on the limits of armed drone usage

Overview & Comments

  • Regarding the costs of the program it is not the first time a UAS project in the UK was in danger due to budget considerations as the Watchkeeper program was threatened to be shutdown on a few occasions
  • Regarding the possibility of pilot shortages, this to needs to be divided into two areas of focus
  • The first one being the origin of pilots – where are the potential candidates taken from? Airmen with manned flying experience or ad-hoc UAS trained personnel? The UK obtains great UAS personnel that are not former airmen from the various army programs (Watchkeeper and the H-450)
  • The level of flight autonomy and the unnecessary need to physically pilot the system can take great use of the already experienced personnel
  • The second issue is the mentality of operating armed systems and the various mission profiles – See “Germany rejects armed UAS”

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