In 2016, defence secretary Michael Fallon announced a £100m development deal with US arms manufacturer General Atomics under which the UK fleet of armed drones will double.
The new acquisitions will be variants of the Reaper, an advanced version of the Predator but the MoD has decided to rename these new drones, the Protector, a far more humane name than ‘Scavenger’, ‘Predator’ or ‘Reaper’. They are expected to be ready for service in 2021 – test flight below.
The MoD refers to the armed drones flying above soldiers on patrol to support them rather than tracking down and executing enemies – but a Jane’s article described them as being capable of carrying multiple-mission payloads, including Brimstone missiles.
In December Private Eye’s researcher made a Freedom of Information request in order to learn more about this renaming exercise from the MoD.
After a three month delay the request was refused on several grounds, which included:
- revealing the information would be counter to the public interest
- Disclosure of media handling might have a ‘chilling effect’ on future discussions pf a similar nature
The military and the drone industry have long tried to improve the image of killer machines and break the connection in the public’s mind between drones and targeted killing, by calling them ‘Remotely Piloted Air Systems’ and ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’. Perhaps it will soon also rename the Brimstone and Hellfire missiles.