Since being unveiled, BriteCloud – a Radio Frequency (RF) threat countermeasure – has undertaken a comprehensive set of trials with Leonardo electronic warfare experts working alongside UK and overseas defence forces to confirm the full operational capability of the decoy. Now, it is demonstrating its ability to be integrated into a variety of airborne platforms from unmanned vehicles to transport aircraft, maximising the chances for aircraft to escape from RF guided threats and return home safely.
Since its earliest trials with the Tornado and Gripen aircraft, BriteCloud has gone through rigorous testing by a number of air forces looking at both variants: ‘BriteCloud 55’, which can be launched from a standard 55mm chaff and flare dispenser, and the smaller ‘BriteCloud 218’, which fits the jammer technology into 2”x1”x8” dimensions. BriteCloud is therefore easily compatible with aircraft that use these standard sizes of expendable cartridges, such as the F-15 and F-16. More recently, the Danish Air Force trialled BriteCloud 218 on its F-16A-MLU Fighting Falcon.
Originally developed to increase the survivability of fast jet combat aircraft, BriteCloud is having its versatility tested to protect a variety of other platform types, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-9A Reaper and MQ-9B Sky/SeaGuardian series UAVs. The company’s MQ-9 became the first RPAS to employ BriteCloud, with a test campaign that saw the Reaper successfully releasing a number of inert decoys during carriage and release trials. These tests address the growing need to protect high-value UAVs from radar-guided threats with a compact and lightweight system, able to fit within the limited equipment carriage capability of unmanned systems.
Leonardo has also previously announced a version of the round designed for transport and special mission aircraft. The BriteCloud 55-T is an enhanced version of the standard cylindrical model, with a boosted power output sufficient to mask the radar cross-section of larger platforms. Development of the 55-T is nearing completion, and it will be absolutely cutting-edge when it enters live testing in the near future.
In the UK, the Royal Air Force (RAF) first accepted BriteCloud into service on the Tornado during the air force’s centenary year in 2018. Work with the RAF and partners to integrate the EAD onto Typhoon is ongoing, with live flying against real threat activity, as the UK Ministry of Defence continues to progress BriteCloud towards service on Typhoon as part of the new capabilities of Project Centurion.
Once in service with the RAF, BriteCloud will be one of the countermeasures available to the Typhoon’s Praetorian DASS.
Development of BriteCloud has been strengthened by Leonardo signing up as the first company to partner with the RAF’s Rapid Capability Office (RCO), which was established to develop defence technologies and capabilities in a faster and more streamlined fashion, and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL). This novel way of doing business continues to allow creative partnerships between Leonardo and our customers (between industry and the customer).
When BriteCloud successfully passes the FCT with the US Air National Guard, the decoy will have approval to be acquired by all US Armed Forces. With BriteCloud then available for another F16 operators internationally, the decoy may well become the radar threat countermeasure most regularly employed in actively protecting aircrews flying on operations around the world.