QinetiQ to trial Banshee target drones onboard HMS Prince of Wales

British multinational defence technology company QinetiQ has received a contract from the Royal Navy to trial the military effect of Banshee Jet80+ air vehicle off Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales.

As informed, the company will provide its experimentation expertise and Banshee Jet80+ air vehicles to support the Royal Navy’s future use of uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) in Carrier Strike Group operations.

These experimental trials, which are closely associated with the navy’s Vampire Phase 1 program, will test QinetiQ Target Systems’ Banshees in training and ISR scenarios. Specifically, they will be focussing on specific flight profiles and the optical recognition of assets to enable ‘friend or foe’ confirmation.

The Banshees provide the opportunity to rehearse operational procedures by emulating cruise missiles and enemy fast jets, according to QinetiQ.

With the addition of electronic warfare systems, the Banshee will not only stimulate the ship and aircraft radar systems, but also the threat warning systems. Furthermore, this will demonstrate the potential use of Banshee in a decoy role.

In the ISR role, Banshee will deliver rapid visual identification of radar contacts to allow classification of threats.

Integration of the MAPLE command and control software is expected, on the other hand, to demonstrate the ability to rapidly integrate this and a wider range of payloads delivering essential information to the War Fighter.

“The continued partnership with QinetiQ on Project Vampire is invaluable to support the evidence gathering as to how such capabilities can grow the lethality of our aircraft carriers,” said Colonel Phil Kelly RM, Head of Carrier Strike & Maritime Aviation, Royal Navy.

“These trials will see us using Banshee aircraft in sample ISR scenarios, a role that could be delivered rapidly in the operating environment. It will also show how Vampire can deliver our training needs to better prepare for realistic threats, ensuring that our training continues to remain close to real-life situations.”

This April, the British tech firm won a four-year Vampire Phase 1 contract to support the Royal Navy’s future UAS operations.

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The contract followed successful deployment of UAS from the deck of HMS Prince of Wales late last year.

The demonstration with HMS Prince of Wales looked at how the drone and associated support equipment, including launcher, can be integrated within a busy ship and flight deck.

It also looked at installing sub-systems on board and procedures for moving and setting up the drone and kit on the flight deck, which has been a hive of activity as the ship trains with F-35B Lightning jets and participates in the largest military exercise in the UK, Joint Warrior, off the Scottish coast.

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Photo: UK MoD