The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched an industry engagement effort to develop low-cost unmanned air systems following the June scrapping of the Mosquito “loyal wingman” combat drone project.
The initiative is part of a follow-on effort to the Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) program and “wider uncrewed system development,” an MoD notice stated.
The November 29 engagement will inform participants of the “intent for additive/adjunct capability in the combat air force mix” and provide them with the “opportunity to consider how they could best contribute to Air’s intent.”
The ministry underlined that the engagement will be of particular interest to players specializing in “[drone] design and manufacture, propulsion, systems integration, navigation, communication, Electronic Warfare payloads (active and passive), autonomy, command and control, airworthiness and certification.”
‘Loyal Wingman’ Project Scrapped
The MoD launched the LANCA in 2015 to “understand innovative combat air technologies and concepts that offer radical reductions in cost and development time.”
As part of the effort, Northern Ireland’s Spirit AeroSystems was awarded a 30-million-pound ($33 million) contract in 2021 to develop a technology demonstrator of a loyal wingman-type unmanned aircraft by 2023.
Called the Mosquito, the drone was supposed to “fly at high-speed alongside fighter jets, armed with missiles, surveillance and electronic warfare technology.”
Once built, a decision concerning follow-on production was to be made.
However, the Royal Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) pulled the plug on the concept in 2022 following a “detailed review of the technical demonstrator.”
The office underlined that the decision will “not impact on the wider intent to build the most capable and cost-effective force mix possible, or the ‘Loyal Wingman’ concepts.”
Reacting to the decision, head of the RCO Air Commodore Jez Holmes said, “Through Project Mosquito and other experimentation activities the Royal Air Force has made substantial progress and gained significant value in understanding and harnessing a range of future uncrewed capabilities.
“This decision maximizes the learning accrued to date and enables a change of direction for the LANCA program. The Rapid Capabilities Office will now quickly launch activities to aggressively pursue the RAF’s unchanged firm commitment to integrating advanced uncrewed capabilities into the near-term force mix with more immediate beneficial value.”