HMS Prince of Wales has launched jet powered drones from her flight deck as the Royal Navy begins exploring the use of crewless technology on the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
It is understood that the demonstration with HMS Prince of Wales looked at how the drone and associated support equipment, including launcher, can be integrated within a busy ship and flight deck.
The Banshee launched from the ship and recovered to land via parachute.
According to a news release here:
“Fixed-wing drones – called the QinetiQ Banshee Jet 80+ – flew from the carrier’s vast flight deck to assess how they might be used to train personnel in defending against ever-more-capable fast jets and missiles. The jet-powered Banshee, which looks like a mini fighter aircraft, can soar to 25,000ft, skim just above the waves, and flies at speeds up to 400 knots (around 460mph). It is hard to detect on radar, giving it all the likeness of an incoming missile – making it a realistic adversary for sailors to train in countering aerial threats.
These drones could eventually be carried by Royal Navy warships and provide operational training to task groups wherever they might be in the world, allowing them to conduct air defence exercises on demand to test reactions and hone responses. And the Banshee’s carrying capacity means the Royal Navy can use it for testing future sensors, weaponry and radio equipment.”
The Royal Navy say that the Banshee flights represent the first step for the Royal Navy in exploring how crewless tech could be operated from the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers in the future.
“There is a real need for a low-cost drone such as the Banshee that can replicate a range of the threats in the skies and provide a test bed for future payloads,” said Commander Rob Taylor, lead for Royal Navy Air Test and Evaluation.
“The key to this is that a warship can carry this drone with it on operations, launch it and use it to keep personnel razor-sharp in countering threats from above. The ability to adapt the payload for differing tasks is also crucial to provide value for money and interoperability across the fleet.”
Another close up of the drone shows Fleet Air Arm markings.
The Banshee Jet-80 drone was developed by Qinetiq, on their website they say:
“Developed from the successful Banshee target, this twin-jet engine powered version was developed using knowledge and experience gained whilst operating the single jet engine variant which entered service in 2010.
The current version is fitted with twin 40kg thrust gas turbine engines giving a total of 80kg of static thrust. This offers an increase in the maximum straight and level airspeed of up to 180metres/second. The use of an auxiliary fuel tank ensures that endurance is similar to that of the single engine version with a typical mixed throttle mission time in excess of 45 minutes.
When fitted with the patented Hot Nose the target provides a forward and side-looking IR source with output in Bands I, II and III, whilst the jet engines provide a realistic rearward looking IR signature. All other well proven augmentation devices traditionally available to Banshee can be fitted to this latest twin jet engine derivative.”