The Royal Navy has used drones as ‘Red Air’ adversaries for the first time from a British aircraft carrier, clearing the way for routine deployments.

The demonstration was a proof of concept for the Royal Navy’s Future Maritime Aviation Force, and required the launching of drones from the deck of the Royal Navy’s HMS Prince of Wales aircraft carrier for the first-time off UK waters.

While this was known about last month, Qinetiq now say that the Banshees provided the crew of HMS Prince of Wales the opportunity to run drills by emulating cruise missiles and enemy fast jets which may be faced on mission.

“The Banshee can operate at 25,000ft, or just above the waterline, and fly at speeds of up to 400 knots, delivering a realistic adversary to train against. The use of the drones as enemy aircraft was essential in helping the carriers improve their defence capabilities as the size of the Banshee is representative of an incoming missile on radar systems.”

Phil Kelly, Senior Responsible Owner for the RN’s Future Maritime Aviation Force, said:

“This demonstration marked a crucial step in the Royal Navy’s future maritime aviation roadmap and its ability to train anywhere in the world with uncrewed assets. The partnership with QinetiQ has proven invaluable in our ability to support our training needs.”

HMS Prince of Wales has launched drones from her flight deck as the Royal Navy begins exploring the use of crewless technology on the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers

“The demonstration shows how our ongoing partnership with the Ministry of Defence enables all branches of our armed forces to train effectively against threats in a realistic scenario,” said Steve Fitz-Gerald, Group Managing Director Maritime & Land, QinetiQ.

“The use of crewless technology is paramount to the Royal Navy’s future programmes. This demonstration delivers an efficient method of training, ensuring the correct payloads are used against the appropriate target to deliver value for money, whether at home or during deployment overseas. It’s anticipated that this form of training will become best practice in the near future.”

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.

The Banshee Jet 80 Twin-Jet Engine Aerial Targets by QinetiQ
Banshee Jet-80 is rail launched.

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.”

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
65 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
ChariotRider
ChariotRider
7 days ago

Now that is interesting and might go some way to explain why the Hawk T1 force was allowed to expire. The Banshee is a good piece of kit. I wonder how far it can be developed, particularly in the training role.

The RN appears to be really pushing hard on the autonomous vehicles front and it sounds like they did very well out of these trials / exercise on HMS Prince of Wales.

Cheers CR

Mark B
Mark B
7 days ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

I’m sure they will push Banshee to it’s limits and then start producing upgrades left, right and centre.I’m sure there will be much excellent kit in the future which will be able to trace it’s roots back to this point.

Ron5
Ron5
7 days ago

What Prince of Wales air defence? Three Phalanx aren’t really impressive.

Marked
Marked
7 days ago
Reply to  Ron5

Don’t forget the man on the bridge wing with his sa80!

Mark
Mark
7 days ago
Reply to  Marked

He may also have his mate with a star streak missle….after they’ve supposed to be a detachment or marines on board.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
6 days ago
Reply to  Marked

😂 Far too busy looking at bean stains on the captain’s shirt to notice any incoming!

Frank62
Frank62
6 days ago
Reply to  Ron5

Agreed. By the time Phalanx engages an aircraft will have launched missiles or bombs far away already. We need at least another longer range system such as Sea Ceptor to take out missiles etc before they can still hit them with debris even if hit. USN Carriers & LPH have a 3 tier SAM/Aniti missile defence: ESSM, RAM & Phalanx & they have far more escorts available for each carrier/LPH.

DaveyB
DaveyB
6 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

The Italian carriers are getting rid of their twin 40s and replacing them with the Strales equipped 76mm gun which will be firing the DART guided munition. The DART has a published effective range of 8km. The rest of their Navy are also following suit. They even said the carrier (Trieste) could provide Naval Gunfire Support (NGS) when firing the Volcano shells. An amphibious assault ship providing its own NGS how absurd….

Mind you, it’s also getting CAMM-ER as it’s primary air defence missile.

Rudeboy1
Rudeboy1
6 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

I have to wonder what use a 76mm Vulcano round would be in NGFS…after all the guidance and fin actuation is taken out of the equation you’re not going to be sending much downrange at a spectacular per round cost…

AlexS
AlexS
6 days ago
Reply to  Rudeboy1

Should be enough for a top attack in an armored vehicle.

Frank62
Frank62
6 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Interesting. 40mm is more capable & longer ranged than Phalanx but OTO76mm even more so. LPH NGS? Not really an issue as even in WW2 most carriers had 4-5″ guns but they were almost exclusively used for AA, very rarely surface actions & never for NGS as far as I’ve heard or read over 60 years.
My alarm is that by fitting the bare minimum on our carriers we only enable the bare minimum of survivabilty, which is nonsense for such valuable assets. Sick of HMG spin on this sort of thing.

DaveyB
DaveyB
6 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

Don’t forget Triest is not a carrier but officially a landing helicopter deck (LHD), even though it has a ski ramp. So it is expected to be closer to shore. I guess using the 76s for NGS is better than nothing, but they can also be reloaded to anti-air defence in seconds if required. The Cavour is the “official” carrier of the Italian Navy and will be flying the F35B, though the Trieste also has a strengthened deck and the necessary heat shielding to operate F35Bs. Hopefully the RN have a more sensible head on, when our carriers are employed… Read more »

DaveyB
DaveyB
6 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

The Volcano is saboted shell, so yes the reduction in size will limit the amount of explosive the shell carries. However, as its either GPS guided or falls on to a laser designated target. The splash error is minimized, so you can land multiple shells within a 5m diameter. That will give anybody a severe headache. The weight of the explosive won’t be able to contend with hardened concrete structures, which is where something like Storm Shadow or a 2000lbs JDAM is a better bet.

AlexS
AlexS
6 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Trieste will have initially only the Oto Melara. FFBNW missiles will be Aster 15 and 30. Italian Navy do not use CAMM.

DaveyB
DaveyB
6 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Trieste is getting the Albatros NG air defence system. They will be using CAMM-ER instead of Aster 15. The in-service date for Albatros is NG 2023. CAMM-ER has past its latest batch of trials and is expected to be integrated with the system late 2023 early 2024. The ship is expected to launch without Albatros being fully integrated, so yes FFBNW is I suppose accurate for the time being.

AlexS
AlexS
6 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

Sorry DaveyB but you are incorrect.

DaveyB
DaveyB
5 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

In what way? The Italian Government have approved the funding for CAMM-ER. The Italian Navy have said the Trieste is getting Albatros NG.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
6 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

For close-in support, SeaRam appears to be the better option with a range six times greater than Phalanx and Goalkeeper.

Dragonfire might just be the better option?

https://navalpost.com/searam-ram-vs-phalanx-goalkeeper/

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
6 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

And for Tempest, clearly, this will be the way forwards!

“The challenge has been to build mirrors which will not be destroyed by a laser beam which is designed to punch holes in hostile vessels or drones miles away.

The beam fired by Dragonfire will be far more powerful than a DIRCM, which need only dazzle not destroy.

MBDA has not released data on the laser’s performance, but officials on the program reportedly believe it has world-beating power and accuracy.”

https://www.c4isrnet.com/global/europe/2021/03/15/britains-dragonfire-ship-laser-gun-to-get-accuracy-boost/

Last edited 6 days ago by Nigel Collins
DaveyB
DaveyB
6 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

The use of fast moving mirrors has also been used in the commercial sector since the 1990’s. This was in the form of digital light processing back projector TVs and image projectors. They used micromirrors that could flicker so it effectively turned the light on or off. The technology used for these projectors is similar to that used for collimating a fibre laser. However, the statement about designing a mirror that isn’t destroyed by a laser. Is a sad fact of life. Even the most reflective mirrors over time are degraded by a laser. This is to do with the… Read more »

DaveyB
DaveyB
6 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

You don’t really need SeaRam when you have SeaCeptor. In this scenario SeaCeptor has many more advantages. The RIM-116 is based on the Sidewinder airframe and uses the same 2″ rocket motor, whereas the SeaCeptor uses the ASRAAMS larger 3″ motor. This means it accelerates significantly faster and reaches a higher terminal velocity. Therefore, it can engage the target further away from the ship! Which may be crucial depending on the speed of the incoming threat.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
6 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

I’d like to see StarStreak or even an StarStreak-ER, put into a Ram type setup and maybe then link it in with the Phalanx’s for the carriers and RFAs if not going with CAMM, Dragonfire or 40mm’s.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63
6 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

Or the 57mm’s.

Rudeboy1
Rudeboy1
6 days ago
Reply to  Quentin D63

You mean like this…. https://imgur.com/YXpXJRa Proposed and mocked up in 1989…. In many ways it would be a fantastic system….but as soon as there is a fog or rain there could be problems. RF seekers or sensors are always more preferable or in tandem. A more sensible solution would be for the MSI-Defence Sigma system to be developed into a CIWS with the new 4 round launcher (a bit like this earlier version with 7 rounds) to handle LMM and Starstreak as a missile defence system. The mount will also take a Bushmaster Super40 40mm gun without problems (and is… Read more »

lee1
lee1
6 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

Well Phalanx is supposed to be a last line of defence in case something gets through everything else. I do think our Carriers should have some sort of self defence missile capability just in case the type 45s are taken out of the battle for whatever reason.

Ordinarily though the Carriers will be protected by a pretty strong air defence force.

AlexS
AlexS
6 days ago
Reply to  Ron5

A potential problem with Phalanx short range might be precisely training against the Banshee. Probably the RN do not want to risk the drone cross passing 0.5km- 1km distance from the ship due to risk something goes wrong.

Italians already destroyed a Banshee with guided rounds from a 76 from one of their ships. More range makes it safer to do that.

Rudeboy1
Rudeboy1
6 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Never been a problem with banners towed by (manned) Hawk or Cobham Falcon 20’s…

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
6 days ago
Reply to  Ron5

Air defence isn’t just stuff that goes woosh and bang. So Stand by everyone for lots of TLA’s ( Three letter abbreviations) Using drones with IR enhancers and transponders/transmitter pods exercises procedural drills in not just the OPS Room and WE dept but if the exercise script is done correctly for everyone on the ship. Crowsnest doing AEW and passing data to the TG. EW Gollies looking out for search radar and missile head radar which determines, depending on the threat intelligence, what Zippo calls to make. Are the search radars you are seeing bomber, fighter, mid course guidance? That… Read more »

Netking
Netking
6 days ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Excellent post. Nerve wracking stuff to say the least. Shows why quality training is essential for any crew that will have to face down an attack in modern combat.

Steve M
Steve M
6 days ago
Reply to  Netking

Agreed excellent discription of all the moving parts required for ship defence, just need have effective tiered weapons system to provide an appropriate response to identified threat (ie: USN detect threat aircraft 200+miles at 150Miles they can start lobbing SM-6 at about 150miles (or SM-2 at about 90Miles), then if still going ESSM at 30miles, then RAM at 6 miles down to the OHSh*te phalax brrrr. once we get T-45’s loaded with Sea Ceptor to increase availble missiles we will be getting there ASter/Sea Ceptor/ ohSh*te just not quite ar much range but with crowsnest our detection /tracking will be… Read more »

Alex
Alex
6 days ago
Reply to  Ron5

This is what the type 45 destroyer is for. It was built exactly for this purpose and is arguably one of the best air defense ships in the world. A carrier never goes alone, and those three phalanx guns are only there as a very last emergency line of defence if everything else fails.

Marked
Marked
7 days ago

We should be more concerned about defending against hypersonic or ballistic threats. 400 knot cruise missiles are the least of the worries.

Joe16
Joe16
7 days ago
Reply to  Marked

I know that they’re the up and coming threat that everyone is talking about, but realistically 400 Knot cruise missiles are going to be the sum of our worries for the next 5-10 years at least. No one has successfully trialled a hypersonic AShM hitting a moving target deploying countermeasures, and there are only 3 countries anywhere close to that: USA, Russia, China. Of the two that could become adversaries in a decade from now, I don’t expect either of them to go head to head with us- any conflict would be via a proxy and those proxies won’t be… Read more »

Callum
Callum
7 days ago
Reply to  Joe16

This precisely. Although 400 knots is still a bit low for the average cruise missile (around 600-700 knots), they represent by far the most common threat.

We can’t afford to equip every ship to defend against hypersonic missiles, and just like how cruisers weren’t armoured to resist battleship gunfire, it would be detrimental to the purpose of most ships to try.

Joe16
Joe16
7 days ago
Reply to  Callum

Fair point, being able to simulate up to low supersonic would probably be a helpful capability to have from a training platform as this decade progresses.

DRS
DRS
6 days ago
Reply to  Callum

Could you use a modified Rafael Trophy System (see Challeger 3 amendments story) as a last defense on OPVs, Carriers etc.

AlexS
AlexS
6 days ago
Reply to  DRS

Trophy range is only half a dozen meters at most.

expat
expat
7 days ago
Reply to  Joe16

Brahmos?

Joe16
Joe16
7 days ago
Reply to  expat

Good point, that is a pretty fast missile. Again though, normally speaking the highest end gear is kept by the developer nation for their own use- and I just don’t see us going up against the Russian military (other than maybe in the form of their little green men). BrahMos is still top of the pile, and is also enormous. I just don’t see that proliferating to Russian client states, Iranian proxies, and other such groups- and they’re really the ones who’re most likely to take a (poorly thought through) pop at an RN vessel…!

Sonik
Sonik
6 days ago
Reply to  Joe16

I agree, proliferation from both Russia and China is the main issue. In the case of ‘little green men’ and proxies, those pulling the strings wish to maintain deniability. Use of the latest ‘wonder weapons’ would not only reveal the source, but also expose the limitations, of those technologies. It’s far more useful for those controlling states, to be able to talk up the unknown possibilities of their vaporware. By their actions I’m sure the MOD and other NATO forces understand this.

Last edited 6 days ago by Sonik
OkamsRazor
OkamsRazor
7 days ago
Reply to  Joe16

Agree according to the FT the latest Chinese hypersonic missile test missed its target by about 24nm

Pete
Pete
6 days ago
Reply to  Joe16

Hypersonic hitting ships moored on harbour on day 1 is biggest threat ..what 1/3 to half the fleet on any given day?

AlexS
AlexS
6 days ago
Reply to  Marked

Putin just announced that Zircon (SS-N-33 NATO code) will be operationally deployed next year.

Marked
Marked
6 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Exactly.

Whilst we probably won’t need to go up against the Russians of Chinese it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. Providing that sort of defence is not something a quick UOR fit is going to resolve! It’s unwise to not be prepared for the possibility.

Things can change quickly and I wouldn’t trust intel to give as much warning as people seem to expect it will.

We fought our last war with the basis of the entire war being based on bad intel.

expat
expat
7 days ago

So a logical step would be to incorporate machine learning into the drones flight computer. It would then not make the same manoeuvres that were defeated in the previous exercise. Overtime the drone becomes harder to defeat and the machine learning can be incorporate into projects like Vixen.

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
7 days ago
Reply to  expat

I thought this had already been achieved to some degree with Taranis? I assume we have moved on a bit since 2016.

https://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/aerospace/2016-07-07/taranis-flight-test-details-described

Steve M
Steve M
7 days ago

make their range a bit longer they could used as decoy to hide number of F-35’s in strike package 😀

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
7 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

Isn’t that the job of Loyal Wingman etc?

Steve M
Steve M
7 days ago

i suppose but i bet banshee a whole lot cheaper? an would be cheap cannon fodder where as the loyal wingman i would hope for the cost be expected to have good survival rate to be reused?

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

You’ve read Red Storm Rising!

Steve M
Steve M
6 days ago

Not for years!!! i’d forgotten that tactic using old missiles converted to drone launching from badgers while Backfires snuck around backdoor

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
6 days ago
Reply to  Steve M

What strike package and Meteor will be in the same timeframe as SPEAR-3 😄

“The RN is clearly betting big on the FCASW project, although US options are always being “looked at”. The FCASW is still in the concept phase and may not deliver a viable anti-ship or land-attack missile, hypersonic or otherwise until early 2030.

To compound the inability to kill ships, the Defence Procurement Minister, Jeremy Quin implied that integration of SPEAR-3 on F-35 has slipped by another 4 years at will not achieve FOC until 2028.”

https://www.navylookout.com/royal-navy-rows-back-on-plans-to-acquire-new-anti-ship-missiles-before-2030s/

Steve M
Steve M
6 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

mmmm, wonder if can stick some c4 on a banshee and use F-35’s as decoys?🙀

william james crawford
william james crawford
7 days ago

How is the Banshee recovered?

Ron5
Ron5
6 days ago

Parachute into the sea or nearby land.

Last edited 6 days ago by Ron5
Frank62
Frank62
6 days ago

Sat down in a comfy chair with a nice cup of tea.

William James Crawford
William James Crawford
6 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

I don’t think that mine was a stupid question and I thank Ron5 for his civil reply.

Armchair Admiral
Armchair Admiral
6 days ago

I do hope you were not thinking that frank 62’s reply was uncivil. I thought it was very funny and not sarcastic or belittling in any way. There was no mention of any statements being stupid, either.
A bit of humour is always welcome.

Frank62
Frank62
6 days ago

No offence intended nor any slur on your question William, just my sense of humour. Apologies.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
6 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

Made me giggle!

Shaun
Shaun
6 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

Made me chuckle too.

Lusty
Lusty
6 days ago
Reply to  Frank62

Me three!

Rowell Jeffrey
Rowell Jeffrey
6 days ago

Well that’s really messed up the government authorise us to buy an fly drones without papers, then ban the drones unless we have paperwork to fly them, what they should have done is lift the age limit an not to fly without ID, instead of wasting our time an money for us all, then want us to vote for the MP’s, bad move an stupid

Rob N
Rob N
5 days ago

400 knots is not realistic in terms of more modern ASMs. The drones should at least be supersonic or even better hypersonic.

Gr
Gr
5 days ago

It can travel up to 400knts? That is a lot slower than the average ‘fast jet’ or anti ship cruise missile. How is it useful to train against a target drone that is nowhere near as fast as a real threat?