The Royal Air Force and Italian military electronics company Leonardo tested an autonomous swarm of lightweight drones last week
This was reported in sufficient detail three days ago on the Leonardo website. However, the next day, the Italians deleted all information related to these tests – a press release on the website and iconography on Twitter. Apparently, this was done at the request of the British, who classify the work on this project as classified.
However, The Drive, using an archive copy of the page available through a Google search engine, told the world about the direction in which the thought of NATO designers was moving.
I must say that experiments with a swarm of drones are not something so prohibitively unique and secret. Periodically, there are reports from the United States, where designers, under the leadership of the DARPA agency, are experimenting with introducing “collective intelligence” into flocks of drones.
The Italian-British experiment involved several unmanned aerial vehicles from the private company Callen-Lenz (number not reported) of small dimensions with a range of 60 miles. But the “highlight” of the project was the Leonardo product – the electronic “cartridge” BriteCloud. It was built into drones, a flock of which, if the project is successfully completed, in a few years will literally paralyze the work of the Russian S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile systems. And, of course, the S-500 Prometheus when it is put into service.
But Leonard’s BriteCloud device is also nothing completely new. This is a miniaturized electronic warfare system, which is already being used in bulk in fighters. The first company to sign a contract with the Italians was the Swedish Saab, which is introducing anti-radar traps BriteCloud into its Gripen fighters. The next plane will be the Typhoon European fighter. And the introduction began two years ago on the Tornado fighter.
According to the principle of use, the electronic warfare system fired off is similar to “heat traps”, which, in the event of an attack on an aircraft by missiles with an infrared homing head, fire back and divert the missiles to the side.
BriteCloud radar traps are fired when an aircraft is detected by radar stations – both ground and air, installed on enemy fighters or in the seeker of a missile. Each fired trap, placed in a cylinder with a diameter of 55 mm, analyzes the enemy radar signal and sends back a signal of the same structure to the radar receiving antenna, simulating the signal reflected from the target. The BriteCloud hardware, according to the developers, is powered by a powerful computer.
During the experiment, the traps were not fired. There was one trap per drone. The meaning of such use of BriteCloud, according to the Italians, is that a swarm of drones is not capable of chaotically, as in the case of scattering of fired traps, but systemically configure the field of false signals. And this will lead to the fact that the S-400, figuratively speaking, will go crazy. That is, there will be a complete disorientation of the air defense radars.
It must be said that during the tests, the operation of the radars of the Russian air defense system was sufficiently simulated. True, these were not radars from the S-400 system, but British production.
As stated in a press release from Leonardo, the positive result was obtained: “During the demonstration, several Callen-Lenz drones were equipped with a modified Leonardo BriteCloud lure, allowing each drone to individually provide a very sophisticated jamming effect. They have been tested against ground-based radar systems representing enemy air defense positions. A powerful victory was demonstrated when a swarm of drones equipped with BriteCloud suppressed threatening radar systems with electronic noise.”
The British are going to implement the BriteCloud complex on the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing fighter-bomber. In the future, these same planes will most likely launch swarms of drones “trained” on enemy radars.
The use of BriteCloud with a swarm of drones has significant advantages over the shooting of these traps by fighters. The traps are programmed and focused on working together in order to achieve maximum disorientation of the tracking radar systems of air defense systems. UAVs distribute them in the air in such a way as to obtain optimal coverage over a large area. At the same time, the swarm, controlled by a trap “implanted” into each drone, which evaluates the radar situation, has the ability to rebuild in response to the emergence of new threats. This achieves the flexibility to use this electronic weapon.
In addition, traps in a swarm of drones can be used for a long time, unlike those fired by fighters. Roy is able to act for several hours and during this time to perform several electronic attacks on the “eyes and ears” of the enemy, which are radars.
Of course, it should be borne in mind that anti-radar swarm drones are consumables. This is due to the fact that they work directly in the air defense zone. That is why manufacturers strive to achieve their maximum cheapness. But at the same time, the destruction of several drones forming a swarm does not lead to a complete loss of system performance.
It must be admitted that the anti-radar swarm, if practical results are obtained in this segment of aircraft construction, will be a formidable weapon.
The Italian company Leonardo is working on a broad front in the field of creating highly efficient unmanned vehicles using artificial intelligence. Another project is the creation of a flock based on SPEAR-EW and SPEAR-3 cruise missiles. In the distant future, it is planned to obtain universal swarms in which drones of various specializations and “caliber” will work, solving a wide range of tasks.
Is there something similar in Russia? The media do. But often we are talking about either adventurous organizations, or even fraudulent ones. In 2017, it was reported that a private company, Millennium, was creating a neural network to control swarms of drones. However, a year later, a Russian Post drone worth 1.2 million rubles was disgracefully crashed after flying several meters.
But there are also serious firms that have already achieved certain results. Thus, the Main Research and Test Center of Robotics of the Ministry of Defense, together with the Network-centric Platforms company, created a software platform that controls the joint flight with cross-exchange of information of a swarm of drones. Three years ago, several drones made a joint flight at the training ground. There is no information on further successes of this project.
The defense is preparing an asymmetric response to NATO swarms, which will scatter and destroy with the help of electronic warfare systems. In this area in Russia there are significant successes.