LONDON, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- U.K. defense officials have inked a $127 million contract with General Atomics to develop new unmanned aerial vehicles.
Under the agreement, the company will equip existing drone technology into new remotely piloted aircraft for the Royal Air Force. The contract is part of the country's plan to replace their fleet of 10 Reapers with 20 new variants known as Protectors.
"Britain faces ever-evolving threats and we must look at innovative solutions to stay ahead of our enemies," U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said in a press release. "Doubling investment in our unmanned air fleet will substantially enhance both the intelligence gathering and firepower of the RAF."
Protector's design will be based on General Atomics' Predator B, also known as the MQ-9 Reaper. The remotely piloted aircraft can be used for strike missions in addition to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations.
New updates for the aircraft are to include advanced imaging and enhanced datalink technology. U.K. Defense officials plan to arm the Protector with the country's new Brimstone 2 missiles and Paveway IV laser-guided bombs.
"Protector is a highly advanced system which will use world-beating technology to give us a decisive advantage on the battlefield," defense equipment and support chief Tony Douglas added. "This contract signature is not only great news for our armed forces, but demonstrates how the strong relationship between UK Defense and our allies helps to ensure best value for the taxpayer."