A fleet of small, remotely-piloted aircraft equipped with a variant of Leonardo’s BriteCloud decoy proved the cutting-edge swarming drone concept in a live trial at the end of July.

Leonardo, working in partnership with the Royal Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), have together successfully conducted a live trial of a ‘swarming drones’ capability. During the demo, a number of small, remotely-piloted aircraft equipped with Leonardo’s powerful electronic warfare jamming technology were used to confuse and overwhelm trial radars simulating enemy air defence systems.

“Inspired by swarms of insects, the concept for swarming drones has already been recognised by the UK Ministry of Defence as a potentially game-changing future technology. Following a rapid cycle of development which saw the RCO and Leonardo’s engineers working closely together with UK SMEs Callen Lenz and Blue Bear, this live trial of the concept conducted by UK Armed Forces represents a key step towards proving an autonomous swarming drone capability.

During the demonstration, a number of Callen Lenz drones were equipped with a modified Leonardo BriteCloud decoy, allowing each drone to individually deliver a highly-sophisticated jamming effect. In addition, the decoy packages were programmed and navigated to work collaboratively to cause maximum confusion. They were tested against ground-based radar systems representing the enemy air defence emplacement. A powerful demonstration was given, with the swarm of BriteCloud-equipped drones overwhelming the threat radar systems with electronic noise.”

Leonardo say that the information gained from the demonstration will be used to inform potential future UK programmes to acquire an autonomous swarming drone capability.

“BriteCloud, which was originally developed as a high-tech protective decoy for combat jets, went into service with the RAF in 2018, marking another world-first for Leonardo and the RCO. Known generically as an Expendable Active Decoy (EAD), each BriteCloud round can individually mimic the radar signature of the aircraft it is launched from, causing threat radar systems to track the drinks-can-sized decoy rather than the aircraft itself. The only product of its type now available worldwide, BriteCloud is available for UK allies to order and is currently undergoing evaluation by US Armed Forces. “

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Nigel Collins

Just posted this in another thread lol.

Very interesting nonetheless, which I assume means, 4th gen aircraft will have the potential to join in on day 1 of any future conflict with drones providing cover against the threat from SAM sites? No doubt a hard kill option could be fitted to the drones as well?

Last edited 1 month ago by Nigel Collins
Steve R

Matter of time before they get a hard kill option.

The drones could be fitted with Spear 3 and/or even be fitted with an explosive warhead themselves to be used as a drone kamikaze.

AJG

As the article says, these drones are “drinks-can-sized” – No way to fit a hard kill option!

Steve R

Though one issue would be making them carrier-borne. VSTOL engines would be prohbiably expensive so they would need to be light enough to take off from the QE decks without a catapult, and we would need to install arrestor hooks or come up with another way of making them able to land on the carriers.

Nigel Collins

Just came across this which suggests that 4th or 4.5 gen should be able to take part as they will support F-35 5th gen and 6th? I read that the carrier was testing drones aboard but the article didn’t say what type. The S500 will be coming online early in 2021, so this could be one of the main reasons for the west investing in this type of technology? Project Mosquito: UK’s ‘Loyal Wingman’ Program Moves Ahead Within the FCAS TI framework, the LANCA project is concerned with producing an unmanned “loyal wingman” that adds operational capability to manned aircraft… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Nigel Collins
Daniele Mandelli

Very curious as to where this test was conducted. Aberporth? Spadeadam? Or abroad?

Adrian

As far as I see – swarm threats are a perfect excuse to BRING BACK THE FLAK GUNS.
I wonder if Germany has any 88mm flaks left over?

Matt

I’d also use drones to stage a “feint” attack in several places to mask any “real” strikes elsewhere. If they can mimic the radar signature of other aircraft, even better.
A lot of options in the drone space.
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TopBoy

Gulf war 1 comes to mind!!!

Lordtemplar

How many drones in a swarm?

Daniele Mandelli

The artists rendering shows undercarriage on the Drones.
I assume them they are not expendable but can return autonomously and land if they survive??

farouk

Daniele wrote:

I assume them they are not expendable but can return autonomously and land if they survive??

The main selling point for drone swarms is they will be deployed from carrier aircraft as a force multiplier at the sharp end

Last edited 1 month ago by farouk
Daniele Mandelli

I guess not then!

Glass Half Full

Given the mention of Blue Bear then its likely this trial used their presumably relatively cheap platforms to test the swarming and ability to overwhelm the radar.

However, Spear-EW is one variant that might be launched from Typhoon, F-35 or Tempest program aircraft for mission use; 8-per-F-35 (internal carry), 3-per-station on Typhoon. Tempest load out depends on what what aircraft come out of the program but probably > F-35B internal carry.

It seems there is scope for smaller less expensive vehicle variants between those two extremes, capable of supporting greater numbers while still being launched from jet aircraft.

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Daniele Mandelli

Sorry GHF, Blue Bear?

Last edited 1 month ago by Daniele Mandelli
Glass Half Full

Sorry, seems you missed the mention in the article – “Leonardo’s engineers working closely together with UK SMEs Callen Lenz and Blue Bear“. My link above is to the Blue Bear web site products page which lists their fixed wing and rotary UAVs.

Daniele Mandelli

Indeed. Thank you.

Joe16

Morning Daniele, I believe the current hot term is “attritable”. Basically meaning that you’d rather get them back, but it’s a more acceptable loss than manned aircaft and (potentially) more expensive combat drones for more dangerous areas.

Daniele Mandelli

Thanks Joe. If these might be used in conjunction with carrier aircraft, as Farouks post above suggests, how do they land on the QEC?

Joe16

Man, that’s the million dollar question, which is the same as for Tempest too… As you say, landing is key because by my understanding even an F/A-18 can actually get airbourne from HMSQNLZ. Lizzie has a flight deck ~250 m long so you’ve probably got 200 m to land if you want to allow breathing space for the ramp. That basically stops all other flight ops though. According to Naval Technology, there are two other “runways” that are 160 m long, which would theoretically allow other ops to happen simulatneously? I guess it depends on the design requirements of the… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Joe, I suspect you and Daniele may have misinterpreted Farouk’s comment. When he referred to “carrier” it was probably meant as the aircraft being a carrier or host for the UAV, not to launch the UAV directly from a ship. His “at the sharp end” link shows such an application. For this trial Blue Bear may have provided some of their existing UAV platforms to Callen Lenz in order to test the swarming and radar overwhelming capability, not to test the aircraft platform. Blue Bear are competing for the LANCA project as part of Team Avenger but LANCA is unlikely… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

🙄😏🤣 I’m getting slow. Thanks GHF. Apologies farouk.

farouk

None taken,
I should have been a lot clearer in my post,

Daniele Mandelli

I really must sort myself out and get up to speed with this….😂

Daniele Mandelli

So GHF, you’ve answered my confusion, which I couldn’t work out. These swarming drones are much smaller, and expendable, while something like LANCA is not. I think my brain was seeing the two as similar.

Which brings me back to the artists rendering above. They have under carriage deployed, which confused me somewhat. So they are not the swarm drones but the carrying drone, like LANCA, which is “attriable.”

I think I understand Farouks ref now about the sharp end.

Glass Half Full

Hey Daniele, maybe I’ve spent a bit more time reading around on this stuff, but the comments above are still just my take on this specific news. The image of the aircraft with undercarriage is probably just a place holder, much like anything you see on LANCA or a manned Tempest platform at present. Its anyone’s guess what the ghostly blue aircraft is supposed to be or why its even included, maybe the artist hit the spirits early 😉 What is certain is that there are a lot of military UAV platforms out there in all shapes and sizes, for… Read more »

Glass Half Full

Actually the comment on the blue aircraft might be a bit of a cheap shot, as I presume its supposed to be a stealthy F-35 or Tempest that is shielded by the decoying UAVs.

Daniele Mandelli

Ha! I didn’t even see that ghostly image until reading farouk’s latest comment. It has the outline of a Typhoon. Much easier to see on a PC….

farouk

GHF,
Thanks for that, I automatically presumed everybody would have seen that.

Jason Holmes

Always wondered with this BriteCloud canister based ECM, surely once they fall to the ground after use, anyone can pick them up and replicate the technology? or do they have some form of soft or hard self-destruct?

Watcherzero

They are pretty simple, just replicating back what they hear. Not really any technology for an enemy to copy or counter. Its like the feedback from a Microphone. The trick is manufacturing them cheap enough to be expendable.

Jerry

Its all getting a bit Terminator like is it not ?

Bob2

Would the S-400/500 be used to defend against MRLS attacks, as well as aircraft and cruise/ballistic missiles?

If so, would it be useful to have an EAD dispensing rocket fired from our MRLS to increase the chances of the other rockets reaching their targets?

DaveyB

Yes, but it’s a very expensive asset to use against a very basic ballistic rocket. The beauty with the S400 system over the previous systems is that it can be and is networked together. It can even be networked with older systems such as S200 and S300, to increase its magazine count. However, due to the threat perceived by stealth aircraft, the S400 is part of a multi-level and multi-spectrum approach. It deals with the high level and long range threats, where shorter range systems such as SA15 Tor and the Pantsir fill the medium to low level gaps. It… Read more »

Bob2

DaveyB thanks for such a clear explanation of how found units might want to use such a system.

Bob2

*ground

Wesley Archer

So, here we are. Something I have long warned others about. From the remote detonated devices to remote worriors. AI is rapidly taking up front stage. We are already in the age where everything is remote controlled. The only area that still is not fully remote controlled is the human race. Although, that’s not without the current major effort to achieve it.

No doubt that DEWs will also bring tyranny to the table, high powered frequency generators already hold much weight in the silent weaponry arsenal. Manchurian Candidates to all those who have their DNA on a database.