The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) has stood-up an experimental unit dedicated to developing an operational ‘swarming drones’ capability, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) told
The RAF plans to field a ‘swarming drones’ capability to add mass to its capable but numerically limited aircraft. 216 Squadron was stood-up on 1 April to develop this concept. (Crown Copyright)
216 Squadron was reactivated at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire on 1 April, the MoD said. Previously, the ministry explained that the unit will be tasked with bringing the RAF’s “ambitious” swarming drones capability into service and continue its development.
As previously reported by
, the then-Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson said in February 2019 that by the end of that year the RAF would operationally field “swarm squadrons of network-enabled drones capable of confusing and overcoming enemy air-defence systems”. In July 2019 the then-Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier clarified the minister’s comments by saying that 216 Squadron would be stood-up by the end of the year to develop the concept, with the capability itself to be delivered by about July, with further development to follow.
This is still the MoD’s stated intention. However,
understands that 216 Squadron has been reformed with minimal manning for now, and that work is ongoing to assess the effects of the current coronavirus pandemic on future plans, manning, and timelines.
In terms of the potential solution to the ‘swarming drones’ requirement, the RAF has previously said that the timelines meant it would not be looking to develop a bespoke platform but would instead be using something that was already available. No further details have been provided for commercial confidentiality reasons.