Target drone launches BriteCloud decoy for the first time

Leonardo’s BriteCloud 218 decoy has completed its first live launch from an Airbus-developed remotely-piloted air target system (RPATS) during a recent trial in Germany, which was heralded as a success by the nation’s armed forces.

The Italian aerospace and defence manufacturing giant announced that the first live launch had successfully take place in a press release, issued on February 17. The event marked an important milestone in the furthered development of the decoy, with the German Armed Forces becoming the first to trial the system as a protection capability for an RPATS.

Leonardo states that live BriteCloud 218 decoy rounds were ejected from the RPATS in flight during the trial, allowing the unmanned target to successfully evade missiles that were armed with semi-active radar seeker technology. It adds that the trial was supported by Airbus and the German analysis and testing firm, Industrieanlagen-Betriebgesellschaft (IABG).

BriteCloud 218 [Leonardo]
Leonardo's BriteCloud 218 expendable decoy can be employed by multi-role fighters, like the F-15 and F-16, or small remotely-piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) without requiring any platform modifications or system integration. Leonardo 

In the press release, the company said: “With the trend towards remotely-piloted air systems becoming increasingly valuable assets, attention is turning to protecting them from attack. BriteCloud, which does not require integration, is a cost-effective way to equip such assets with [the] latest-generation jamming capabilities.

“The decoy is dramatically more effective than traditional chaff countermeasures (radar-reflecting foil), with its on-board computer deploying the latest electronic warfare techniques to protect from modern threats,” it added.

Leonardo’s BriteCloud decoy is a flare-sized electronic device that protects aircraft from modern radar-guided missiles and can be launched from a standard-sized countermeasure dispenser system. Its compatibility with common countermeasure dispensers, such as BAE Systems’ AN/ALE-47, means that the system can be employed by multi-role fighters, such as the F-15 and F-16, as well as smaller RPAS platforms. When deployed, the decoy transmits a radio frequency (RF) that is intended to simulate the missile’s target, drawing the threat away from the aircraft and towards the BriteCloud system.  

The 218 is a newer, smaller variant of the BriteCloud system and it is currently being evaluated in the US as part of the nation’s Foreign Comparative Testing programme. The initiative, which is being led by the US Air National Guard, will confirm whether or not the decoy is suitable for use aboard the US’ resident F-16C/D fleets. If the trials are successful, it could lead to the system entering service with the wider US Air Force.