The Royal Air Force’s (RAF) drone swarms have shown “enormous operational potential to confuse and overwhelm an adversary’s air defenses,” UK Military Chief of Staff Sir Mike Wigston said.
Wingston based his assessment on three years of testing, in which the RAF trialed five different drones in 13 different experiments with varying payloads, platforms, and control systems.
Based on these tests, the RAF declared its current fleet of drones “operationally useful” in March. Wingston added that the service is now focusing on “systems that can be operationalized much more quickly.”
Results from the Mosquito program, the RAF’s previous combat drone program, will be used to further modify the current drone swarms.
“The work has been challenging, but we have learnt and gained a huge amount from our Mosquito programme around digital design and novel manufacturing techniques,” Wigston said at the Global Air & Space Chiefs’ Conference 2022 on July 14.
The UK military is “exploring new models of capability delivery and accelerated production ‘when we need them’ rather than ‘in case we need them’ from the twin jet 3D-printed Pizookie, to commercially-available large drones fitted with novel payloads, to large quadcopters,” he said.
In the autumn, the Rapid Capabilities Office is set to host a series of industry competitions for uncrewed systems to select potential assets for faster and better frontline battle, according to the chief.