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RN performs first UAS trials from carrier Prince of Wales

A QinetiQ Banshee Jet 80+ target vehicle pictured on its launcher on HMS Prince of Wales's flight deck. (Crown Copyright)

The UK Royal Navy (RN) has completed initial trials designed to explore the operation of uncrewed air systems (UASs) from its new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

Undertaken from HMS Prince of Wales, the demonstration saw QinetiQ Banshee Jet 80+ aerial target vehicles launched from a pneumatic launcher on the ship's flight deck and then operated to allow an evaluation of how they might be used to train personnel in defending against air threats. The Banshee Jet 80+ is a compact, twin-jet aerial target designed to provide low-cost threat representation.

The trials, which come less than a year before the retirement of the Hawk T1 aircraft currently used to emulate low-level air and missile threats, were performed on the Ministry of Defence's (MoD's) Hebrides Range facility off northwest Scotland.

The MoD in February this year revealed its interest in low-cost maritime airborne uncrewed or autonomous UAS systems that could deliver threat simulation presentations to the maritime task group and offer potential for spiral development for other roles in support of the Future Maritime Aviation Force (FMAF). The RN's FMAF envisages the development of a hybrid crewed/uncrewed force in which a number of roles – notably intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, lift, communications, and strike – are migrated to uncrewed platforms.

Details of the UAS trials from Prince of Wales were released on 29 September. According to the RN, the demonstration examined how the target vehicle and its associated support equipment, including a Robonic Kontio MC2555LLR pneumatic launcher, could be integrated within a busy ship and flight deck.

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