International companies have collaborated to fire a Thales “Martlet” Lightweight Multi-role Missile from a Fly BVLOS Jackal drone during a successful first trial in the United Kingdom.
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UK-based Flyby Technology designed and developed the technology, with Türkiye aviation consultant partners Fly BVLOS Technology and Maxwell Innovations. The project is sponsored by the Royal Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.
The vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) drone is capable of battlefield air interdiction, close air support, helicopter engagement in flight and destruction of tanks, runways and roads. It has a 15-kilogram load capacity, 160km/h max speed, and 130-kilometre range.
The lightweight multi-role missile (LMM) is already in service as a high-accuracy precision weapon used against small, fast-moving targets in air, land or sea engagements.
Flyby Technology chief executive officer Jon Parker, who is a former RAF and Royal Navy fighter pilot, said two operational Jackal aircraft were built and fired two LMMs during the short six-week development cycle.
“War is about winning, and Jackal is designed by warfighters for that ultimate aim,” he said.
“The days of having a fighter pilot in the cockpit are numbered and I realise I will not perhaps be loved for bringing about the end of my own kind.
“The future of warfare is changing, and Jackal is part of that future as a true multi-role attack aircraft.
“We want to make Jackal a flagship product, creating secure UK jobs and contributing to a new future for the British aerospace and defence industries.”
Jackal can give nations the attack helicopter or fast jet effect with little risk, better hidden launch sites and at a fraction of the price, Mr Parker said.
Flyby Technology will continue development in the UK and Turkey, as it seeks UK manufacturing partners to build Jackal at scale.
“One of the unique selling points of LMM is its ability to be integrated onto multiple platforms, including armoured vehicles, helicopters, naval vessels or indeed, shoulder launchers, each designed to address different threats,” said Thales Northern Ireland managing director Philip McBride.
“It has been a privilege to work with the Flyby team on this time-compressed and groundbreaking trial and has proved that both Thales and Flyby can produce impressive and agile results when focused on a collective, shared objective.”
RAF head of rapid capabilities office, Air Commodore Jez Holmes, said the office is looking forward to seeing the ongoing developments in this area.
“Given the impressively short time scale it took the team to deliver the initial trial, it’s clear that Flyby could have an exciting future in this sector,” Air Cdre Holmes said.
“The partnering and support from Thales was outstanding in lowering the barriers to entry for innovative start-ups.”
The drone-missile carrier concept should look familiar as Northrop Grumman developed their own MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned autonomous helicopter during the early 2000s. That aircraft had several variants including a version with stub wings to carry Hellfire missiles, glide weapons, and rockets.