Home Europe UK aircraft carrier to trial Banshee drones on deployment to the US

UK aircraft carrier to trial Banshee drones on deployment to the US

Banshee drone on HMS Prince of Wales
Royal Navy photo of an earlier trial of the Banshee on HMS Prince of Wales

HMS Prince of Wales, the second of two new Royal Navy aircraft carriers, will be test flying Banshee Jet80+ air vehicles during its upcoming deployment to the east coast of the United States.

Defense technology QinetiQ has won a £1.5m contract to support the trial that will take place later in 2022 as part of the carrier’s first deployment.

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

The experimental trials, which are closely associated with the Navy’s Vampire Phase 1 program, will test the Banshees in training and ISR scenarios, focusing 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. 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, adding more depth and reality to the training that can be delivered. This will also demonstrate the potential use of Banshee in a decoy role.

In the ISR role, Banshee will prove its capability to deliver visual identification of radar contacts to allow classification of threats. Integration of the MAPLE command and control software will demonstrate the ability to 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.”