July 12, 2024


An Unmanned Community

New Drone Fires Thales Missile in Unmanned Air Combat Milestone

JACKAL drone with LMMJACKAL drone with LMM

British company, Flyby Technology, has successfully fired a Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) from its experimental Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial platform in a trial sponsored by the Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) of the Royal Air Force (RAF). 

This trial represents the first time such an effective missile has been fired from a lightweight tactical VTOL BVLOS drone in flight.

According to Flyby, JACKAL fills a hole in combat capability, offering a complete ecosystem including training, development of tactics and unique operational capabilities.

JACKAL and the future family of Remotely Piloted Air Systems (RPAS) it represents is a modular, VTOL plug-and-play RPAS, with the potential to revolutionize modern warfare and give the UK and its allies the flexible capability required in the modern world. 

The brainchild of former RAF and Royal Navy fighter pilot, Jon Parker, CEO of Flyby Technology, JACKAL has potential for battlefield air interdiction, close air support, engaging helicopters in flight and killing tanks, and denying the use of runways and roads, putting it uniquely into a class of its own. 

As a plug-and-play system, new equipment and technologies can be incorporated into the aircraft between missions as well as during continued development, a novel process that ensures future aircraft are not obsolete before they go into service. It also gives a pathway to future regulatory compliance and airworthiness standards.

Flyby Technology want to make JACKAL a flagship product, creating secure UK jobs and contributing to a new future for the British aerospace and defense industries.

JACKAL was originally designed to meet a Flyby internal requirement for an aircraft suited to the needs of non-governmental organizations to provide disaster relief and as a training platform for pilots. Things changed when Flyby Technology was asked to brief the RAF RCO on this new drone platform. Jon Parker set about the task of recreating JACKAL as a war fighting machine, whilst removing the most dangerous part of a fighter pilot’s role: face-to-face engagement with the enemy.

As a former pilot, Air Warfare Instructor and Senior Weapons Instructor, Jon Parker brought his own multirole capabilities to the project: the mindset of a war fighter, weaponry expertise and operational experience developing tactics for the British military. He also brought to bear project design, development and management experience gained previously from his role as aviation integration manager for the two new British aircraft carriers. 

His concept of an attack drone that can fly behind enemy lines to disrupt logistics and lines of communication may serve to revolutionize air warfare. Parker’s team contacted Thales UK in Belfast who accepted the challenge to work with Flyby Technology to be the first to fire their LMM from a drone in flight.

For their part, the RAF RCO wanted to see how well a large corporation like Thales could work with a small company like Flyby and vice-versa. Flyby Technology was determined to build two operational aircraft from scratch and fire two LMMs in six weeks.

Flyby and Thales UK rose to the challenge and just six weeks after getting the call, the combined teams successfully fired two LMMs proving that JACKAL had arrived as an innovative combat capability able to fire modern battlefield weapons in flight.

The JACKAL team is now developing plans for productionizing the capability, whilst the aircraft is undergoing other enhancements and tactical development. 

The original design development, prototyping and testing of JACKAL was done in Turkey together with partners FlyBVLOS Technology and Maxwell Innovations, because of regulatory restrictions on the flying of drones weighing more than 25kg in UK airspace. 

Flyby Technology will continue some development in Turkey but is now seeking UK manufacturing partners to build JACKAL at scale. They are also designing weapons perfectly suited to both the JACKAL and its new Attack Drone role. 

The company believes that JACKAL can give nations that cannot afford attack helicopters or fighter jets the same effect with little risk, at a fraction of the price, and without the long lead times associated with manned aircraft systems. Because the aircraft was designed from the ideas of Harrier Pilots, the aircraft takes off and lands vertically, another advantage over traditional fighter jets as there is no need for vulnerable runways. 

The future of defense procurement is shifting towards agile companies who can get capability into the hands of soldiers, sailors and aviators in record time, and large defense companies are embracing that idea to their credit. JACKAL offers flexibility and adaptability, turning the defense procurement process on its head.

Air Commodore Jez Holmes, Head of the RAF RCO, said: “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, and the partnering and support from Thales was outstanding in lowering the barriers to entry for innovative start-ups. I’m looking forward to seeing the ongoing developments in this area.”

Jon Parker, FRAeS, CEO of Flyby Technology, said: “War is about winning, and JACKAL is designed by war fighters for that ultimate aim. The days of having a Fighter Pilot in the cockpit are numbered and I realize I will not perhaps be loved for bringing about the end of my own kind. But the future of warfare is changing and JACKAL is part of that future as a true multi-role aircraft.”

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