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UK touts uncrewed air defence from mid-2030s

Seen flying alongside a manned F-35 fighter in this artist's impression, the Mosquito uncrewed aircraft is set to be the primary element in the UK's future airborne air defence capabilities from the mid 2030s. (Crown Copyright)

The United Kingdom has said that its airborne air defence duties will be flown by uncrewed aircraft from the middle of the decade, with manned combat aircraft flying in support.

Answering a question in the House of Commons on 13 September, Minister of State for Defence Jeremy Quin said that uncrewed aircraft are set to replace the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) Eurofighter Typhoons in the air-to-air role from the mid-2030s, supported by the Tempest fighter now being developed as part of the wider Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

โ€œA core aircraft is set to play a crucial role in our concept of a Future Combat Air System, but this will likely be just one element in a network of capabilities supporting uncrewed aircraft that are expected to replace the United Kingdom's Typhoon aircraft air-to-air combat capability from the mid-2030s,โ€ Quin said.

As Quin noted in his response, the UK is developing an FCAS that comprises the Tempest optionally-piloted combat aircraft at its core, and includes also uncrewed Mosquito โ€˜loyal wingmen' being developed under the Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) project, Alvina swarming drones, and other legacy platforms networked together in the future battlespace by means of a Combat Cloud. According to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), Mosquito will be compatible with the UK's aircraft carriers, while the Royal Navy is reported to be developing its own carrier-capable uncrewed aircraft known as Vixen.

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