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24 Jul, 2019 16:11

Britain confirms it is developing DRONE SWARMS, joining arms race with Russia, US and India

Britain confirms it is developing DRONE SWARMS, joining arms race with Russia, US and India

Britain’s Royal Air Force has revealed that it is joining Russia, the US and India in the race to develop drone swarm technology which will be deployed alongside its F-35 and Typhoon squadrons.

The Ministry of Defence is hoping to provide pilots with increased protection and survivability while also feeding them additional combat operations intelligence through the use of the Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) concept drone as part of Project ‘Mosquito.’

Contracts were awarded to three teams led by Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd, Boeing Defence UK Ltd, and Callen-Lenz, who will each design, develop and prototype the drone swarm technology, which could see live testing as early as 2022.

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The RAF is seeking two specific capabilities: one is to provide a so-called ‘loyal wingman’ drone that will provide additional intel and close-quarter protection to human fighter pilots; and the other is to create drone swarms which will overwhelm enemy anti-aircraft defenses for long enough to allow for successful bombing raids. 

“The swarm will hunt for enemy radar and missile systems and then cue our other aircraft to avoid or destroy them,” the MoD told Jane’s

The RAF is not the first nation to develop such drone swarm technology.


Russia’s Defense Ministry previously confirmed it was exploring the use of drones to “strike targets with bombs – making mini-UAVs extremely effective weapons,” in what were widely dubbed ‘Jihadi-style’ drones.

The proposed initial payloads will be no more than 1kg of explosive (similar in effect to a hand grenade) but there are plans to develop drones with up to 20kg high explosive capacity. 

The United States of America

The US Navy has been developing its own drone swarms in an experimental capacity for years, releasing a video showcasing its Perdix Swarm system in October 2016. 

The machines demonstrated advanced swarm behaviors including collective decision-making, adaptive formation flying and self-healing.


Meanwhile, India is reportedly developing its own drone swarm capabilities with the ALFA-S or Air-Launched Flexible Asset (Swarm) due to be deployed within the next decade. 

Each drone is reportedly between one and two meters in length, deployed from a canister mounted under the wings of Indian Air Force jets. The drones will boast top speeds of up to 100kph and carry out reconnaissance missions and potential ‘suicide’ combat operations targeting deeply embedded enemy vehicles or anti-aircraft defense systems with its high explosive warhead. 

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