The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has revealed that Project Mosquito – a future uncrewed combat aircraft technology demonstration – will “not proceed beyond the design phase”, following a ‘detailed review' of the technical demonstrator by the Royal Air Force (RAF) Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO).
The decision – which was made in mutual agreement with the project’s industry partners – was announced by the UK MOD on June 24 and follows a “detailed review” of the technical demonstrator and the UK’s broader Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) portfolio, which Project Mosquito was part of. Conceptualised under the LANCA programme in 2015, Project Mosquito aimed to develop a technology demonstrator for a low-cost, attritable unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) with force multiplying capabilities under the ‘Loyal Wingman’ concept.
According to the MOD, the decision was informed by “parallel analysis and capability experimentation” carried out by the RAF RCO and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). “The accumulation of analysis concluded that more beneficial capability and cost-effectiveness appears achievable through exploration of smaller, less costly, but still highly capable additive capabilities,” the MOD cited in a press release (issued on June 24).
The move to scrap Project Mosquito comes almost 18 months after Team Mosquito – led by Sprit AeroSystems Belfast (having partnered with Northrop Grumman UK and Intrepid Minds) – was awarded a £30m contract to design and manufacture a technology demonstrator. Prior to the cancellation, this demonstrator was expected to begin full-scale flight trials before the end of 2023.
Commenting on the decision, Air Cdre Jez Holmes – head of the RAF RCO – said: “Through Project Mosquito and other experimentation activities, the Royal Air Force has made substantial progress and gained significant value in understanding and harnessing a range of future uncrewed capabilities. This decision maximises the learning accrued to date and enables a change of direction for the LANCA programme.
“The Rapid Capabilities Office will now quickly launch activities to aggressively pursue the RAF’s unchanged firm commitment to integrate advanced uncrewed capabilities into the near-term force mix with more immediate beneficial value,” he added.
Despite the decision to scrap Project Mosquito, the UK MOD was keen to highlight that it will not affect the LANCA programme, adding that it still remains focused on delivering a ‘Loyal Wingman’ platform to the RAF frontline as part of the wider Future Combat Air System (FCAS) enterprise. “The programme remains focused on the post-2035 capability space, where integration through a system-of-systems approach has been a key requirement from the outset,” it added.