Spirit AeroSystems Belfast has shared a rendering of the Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) unmanned “loyal wingman” aircraft it will develop as part of team MOSQUITO for the Royal Air Force.
The industry team that will mature the concept of an unmanned system that will fly at high-speed alongside fighter jets comprises Northrop Grumman and Intrepid Minds.
The UK defense ministry announced a contract in January this year for the development of the LANCA concept. A full-scale vehicle flight-test program is expected by the end of 2023.
Spirit said it would use agile design principles and digital applications to generate knowledge and evidence for a potential follow-on project. Findings could lead to this capability being deployed by the RAF to enhance protection, survivability and information advantage to aircrews.
The company explained it would use its resin transfer infusion technology to produce a lightweight vehicle capable of uncrewed, high-speed flight. Benefits of using extensive composite components, compared to all-aluminium aerostructures, include both reduced maintenance and fuel consumption for aircraft operations.
In addition to the provision of systems engineering support, Northrop Grumman will supply its international DA/RC (Distributed Autonomy / Responsive Control) technologies, gateway offerings and advanced mesh networking capabilities to the aircraft. These enable human-machine collaboration and cooperative mission management across distributed manned and unmanned assets.
“Spirit Belfast is delighted to lead the delivery of a national program enabling the development of cutting-edge technologies while maintaining critical skills in the UK,” said Scott McLarty, Senior Vice-President of Spirit AeroSystems, Airbus Programs. “Supporting the MOD’s strategic objectives on pace, affordability and operational capacity, Team MOSQUITO will help drive collaborative innovation and competitive advantage. We are excited to develop this relationship with a view to contributing to a more sustainable industrial base for UK defense.”
Intrepid Minds will cover the complete avionics system, power, lighting and integration with the ground control station. As part of this project, the company brings its own Adrestia system currently being deployed across the air, surface and subsurface domains. Having already integrated into many civil and defense systems, Intrepid Minds is using that speed of development to generate a cohesive structure across all partners and suppliers.
LANCA originated in 2015 out of a need to understand innovative combat air technologies and concepts that offer radical reductions in cost and development time and is a RAF Rapid Capabilities Office led project under the Future Combat Air System Technology Initiative (FCAS TI).