REVEALED: Why Italian Tornados visited RAF Coningsby last year

A recent press release from Leonardo states that the reason for Italian Air Force Tornados and a Royal Danish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon visiting RAF Coningsby last October was for trials relating to the BriteCloud electronic countermeasure.

The press release says: “Leonardo and the UK Royal Air Force have successfully demonstrated new high-tech deception techniques using its drinks-can-sized BriteCloud countermeasure, in co-operative trials with the Italian and Royal Danish Air Forces. The trials took place at a UK range in partnership with the RAF’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), the Air and Space Warfare Centre (ASWC), and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).” The range used for the trials was RAF Donna Nook in Lincolnshire. 

One of two Italian Air Force Tornados that visited RAF Coningsby beyween October 11-14, 2021. Jamie Ewan
One of two Italian Air Force Tornados that visited RAF Coningsby beyween October 11-14, 2021. Jamie Ewan

Leonardo describes BriteCloud as “a countermeasure for combat, transport and special mission aircraft that provides latest-generation protection from radar-guided surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles. Fired like a flare, it contains a powerful miniature jammer that sends out a convincing ‘electronic ghost’ signal. This signal seduces incoming missiles towards BriteCloud as it falls away from the aircraft, ensuring that the missile detonates far away from its intended target.” Each round has Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) which “allows BriteCloud to tailor its ‘electronic ghost’ signal to the specific threat radar, allowing it to fool the radar in the most effective possible way.”

At the RAF Donna Nook air weapons range: “The Italian Air Force fired BriteCloud 55 rounds from Tornado aircraft and the Royal Danish Air Force dispensed BriteCloud 218 rounds from an F-16 fighter. The new techniques proved highly effective at the trials range and the positive results will be presented to other NATO nations in an operators’ forum”, Leonardo revealed.

The first variant of this electronic countermeasure was the BriteCloud 55 which entered service with the RAF in 2018 and was used by the Tornado GR4 and now also the service’s Typhoon fleet. Designed to fit in standard 55mm chaff and flare dispensers according to Leonardo it “is capable of defeating all known current threat systems.” While the BriteCloud 218 version fits a 2x1x8 inch countermeasure dispensers and is in the final stages of the US Department of Defense’s Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) programme for the product, which upon approval would clear the way for it to be purchased by America’s military.

A piece of artwork depicting a Tornado deploying a BriteCloud electronic countermeasure. Leonardo
A piece of artwork depicting a Tornado deploying a BriteCloud electronic countermeasure. Leonardo