The Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) concept drone will be deployed alongside the F-35 and Typhoon.
The MoD say that the aim of the programme is based around offering increased protection, survivability and information for the manned aircraft – and could even provide an unmanned combat air ‘fleet’ in the future.
According to respected defence journalist Gareth Jennings at Janes, these capabilities “include, but are not limited to, the use of “loyal wingmen that see unmanned aircraft flown in concert with a manned aircraft, as well as swarming unmanned aircraft designed to overwhelm enemy air defences”.
@ChiefofAirStaff notes need to inc combat mass of RAF. “Volume is the key part to this [swarming UAV concept]. We have great capabilities in the RAF, but not much of it. This mass is what constantly concerns me – we need to create more targets in the air; we need to grow mass.”
— Gareth Jennings (@GarethJennings3) July 22, 2019
Specifically, say the MoD, in a break with traditional approaches for combat air systems in the UK, LANCA aims to deliver ‘dramatic reductions in traditional cost and development timeline’.
The MoD said in a release:
“Under LANCA, a technology demonstrator project known as ‘Mosquito’ has awarded contracts for Phase 1 of the work, which will produce a preliminary system design for an unmanned air vehicle and assessment of the key risk areas and cost-capability trade-offs for an operational concept. Initial flight test of the demonstrator air vehicle could take place as early as 2022.
Phase 1 will include the exploration of novel design, development, prototyping, manufacture, and support, to enable low-cost rapid development and evolution of a potential future unmanned combat air system. Dstl, which provides science and technology for the defence and security of the UK, is delivering the technical oversight, project management, and partnering for Project Mosquito.”
For Phase 1, contracts were awarded to three teams led by Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd, Boeing Defence UK Ltd, and Callen-Lenz (Team BLACKDAWN partnered with Bombardier Belfast and Northrop Grumman UK Ltd).
LANCA originated in 2015 studies to understand innovative Combat Air technologies and concepts that might offer radical reductions in cost and development time. Subsequently LANCA was brought into the RAF RCO as part of the Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative (FCAS TI).
Project Mosquito has two planned phases. After the 12-month Phase 1, Phase 2 will select up to two of the Phase 1 solutions to further mature the designs, complete manufacturing of the technology demonstrator and conclude with a limited flight-test programme.