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Royal Navy brings in Banshee to build RPAS capability

One of the UK RN's seven Banshee RPAS air vehicles, pictured in a hangar at RNAS Culdrose. The Banshee is bringing a step-up in RN RPAS capability. (Dr Lee Willett)

The UK Royal Navy (RN) has purchased seven QinetiQ Banshee Jet 80+ remotely piloted air systems (RPAS), as the next step in building its unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capability.

The Banshees will support two primary tasks for 700X Naval Air Squadron (NAS), the maritime UAS centre of expertise.

“First, it's about building remote pilots' experience of operating that type of uncrewed system. Second, it's a vehicle to allow the RN to test and develop different types of sensors,” Lieutenant Commander Martin Howard, 700X's commanding officer, told Janes during a visit to Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Culdrose, Cornwall. In the latter case, the navy is assessing capability gaps that sensors fitted to a system like the Banshee could fill, he added.

The Banshee is designed as an aerial target vehicle. The 3 m-long, 130 kg, ramp-launched unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has a 40 n mile-plus range, a 45 minute endurance, and a 400 kt (approximately) maximum speed delivered by twin engines, each generating 40 lb of thrust.

The Banshee brings a significant step-up in RN RPAS capability, Banshee flight commander Lieutenant Tony Nairn said. “This [is] a foundation for future fast-jet/RPAS operations. We need to build our skillbase and our suitably qualified and experienced personnel for how to operate RPAS, how to maintain them, and the safety element that comes with that.”

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