MBDA Arlington, VA
MBDA recently demonstrated its Dual Mode Brimstone (DMB) missile on an MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), scoring nine direct hits against a range of targets, including very-high-speed and maneuvering vehicles. Dual Mode Brimstone is a combat-proven weapon designed for the engagement of moving and maneuvering targets, and targets in high collateral risk / urban environments. Brimstone can now provide Reaper crews with a weapon that reduces collateral damage risk and demonstrates first-pass, single-shot lethality against high-speed maneuvering targets on land and at sea, and in complex environments.
Conducted in December 2013 and January 2014 at US Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, the trials were undertaken on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence by the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Air Warfare Centre Unmanned Air Systems Test and Evaluation Squadron, Defence Equipment & Support Weapons Operating Centre, United States Air Force’s BIG SAFARI Organization, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Incorporated, and MBDA.
The trials began with captive carry of avionics and environmental data-gathering missiles, proving the successful integration of the two systems and gathering additional evidence to support future clearance activities. These were quickly followed by a series of live operational missile and inert telemetry missile firings. The firings were taken from realistic “middle of the envelope” profiles; typically 20,000 ft release altitude and 7km - 12km plan range, with the platform being remotely piloted in operationally representative beyond line of sight (SATCOM) conditions, with tracking and designation of targets being conducted in a mixture of manual-track and auto-track modes.
Brimstone scored nine direct hits in a range of very challenging scenarios, including static, accelerating, weaving, fast, and very fast remotely controlled targets. Two of the more challenging scenarios were against trucks travelling at 70 mph in a crossing target scenario. At times, the targets were manually tracked by the Reaper crews, showing how the integrated semi-active laser and active MMW radar seeker works in tandem to ensure direct hits, even while tracking and designating targets manually over SATCOM. It was reported that every operational and telemetry missile performed as designed.
The Brimstone weapon system has already been fully integrated into the UK Tornado GR4 fighter aircraft, where it can be operated in either of two cockpit selectable modes. Mode 1 features Semi-Active Laser (SAL)-only guidance, while Mode 2 offers SAL initially with end-game Millimeter Wave Radar (MMW) guidance for fast-moving and maneuvering targets. In October 2013, a Brimstone-equipped Tornado GR4 demonstrated the ability to engage from a high off-boresight, targets travelling at up to 70 mph, from longer ranges and without the need to revert to straight and level flight, whilst operating from a Close Air Support (CAS) wheel.
The most recent tests at China Lake demonstrate that the Brimstone’s dual mode seeker and robust guidance capability can enable beyond line of sight Remotely Piloted Aircraft to deliver the same low collateral damage effects with the same precision as that demonstrated by Brimstone-equipped RAF Tornado GR4 fast jets on operations in Afghanistan and Libya. Combined with ongoing and contracted RAF trials against maritime Fast Inshore Attack Craft, these trials further demonstrate the unique capability to deploy a single, truly multi-role missile family for land and maritime attack from fast jets, remotely piloted aircraft, multi-mission and maritime patrol aircraft, rotary wing platforms, and surface platforms.
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