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US Air National Guard to test fly BriteCloud missile decoy

US ANG F-16 deploying BriteCloud
Photo: Leonardo

The US Air National Guard is set to complete flight trials of the BriteCloud missile decoy that will inform a procurement decision on Leonardo’s expendable active decoy by the US government.

BriteCloud uses miniaturized jamming to protect combat aircraft from incoming missiles.

Designed and built in the UK, the decoy has seen service with the Royal Air Force, and was tested by Germany recently.

US Air National Guard F-16 jets will support the US defense department’s foreign comparative testing (FCT) program for the BriteCloud 218. Successful completion of the FCT will open the door to potential US procurement.

BriteCloud is a radio frequency countermeasure for combat, transport and special mission aircraft. Fired like a flare, it uses a powerful miniature jammer to protect the aircraft from radar-guided surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.

Uniquely, BriteCloud packs electronic warfare jamming technology known as DRFM (Digital Radio Frequency Memory) into each round. DRFM allows BriteCloud to transmit a convincing ‘electronic ghost’ signal to lure away incoming missiles, keeping the crew and aircraft safe.

The US FCT program is designed to find, evaluate and field products produced by US allies where they offer unique capabilities at high technology readiness levels. Leonardo’s BriteCloud was selected for the FCT program in 2019 following its entry into service with the UK’s Royal Air Force.

Since then, Leonardo and the US ANG have worked closely together during pandemic conditions to drive the FCT forward, including delivering training to members of the ANG test team from across the US. Modules to-date have covered programming and testing the decoy using BriteCloud demonstration units. Further planned training includes loading mission data onto BriteCloud rounds.

Flight trials with instrumented inert rounds are planned for later this year, with live fire exercises taking place in early 2022.

BriteCloud is available in different variants for a range of aircraft types. The US ANG is evaluating the BriteCloud 218 (2x1x8 inch ‘brick’ round), which is compatible with the Air National Guard’s F-16 dispensing system. BriteCloud is also available in a ‘55’ variant, suitable for 55mm round-format dispensers on aircraft such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen E and Tornado GR4, and a ‘55-T’ variant, designed to protect transport aircraft, special mission aircraft and helicopters.