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RN sets sights on low-cost, fixed-wing UAV under Project Vampire

A QinetiQ Banshee Jet 80+ target vehicle pictured on its launcher on HMS Prince ofWales 's flight deck during trials in September 2021. (Crown Copyright)

The UK Royal Navy (RN) is moving forward with plans to procure a low-cost fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as an initial increment of its Future Maritime Aviation Force (FMAF).

Dubbed Project Vampire, the acquisition aims to assess uncrewed or autonomous air systems for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, electromagnetic operations, and threat simulation. The release of an invitation to tender (ITT) by Navy Command Headquarters on 17 January comes four months after initial demonstrations of the Banshee Jet 80+ aerial target vehicle from the aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales .

Managed by the Develop Directorate within Navy Command, the FMAF programme is exploring the transition of a number of aviation roles – intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, communications, lift, and strike – from crewed to uncrewed air platforms. As one strand of FMAF, Project Vampire aims to address a number of capability problem sets utilising a low-cost, fixed-wing UAV as a means for the development of operational concepts, payload types, and associated communication and digital architecture.

According to Navy Command, Phase 1 of Project Vampire is intended to last up to four years. Key deliverables include up to four air vehicles based on a mature design, a single launcher, a single ground station with aerials, operator and maintainer training, and technical, management and safety data to support military registration and airworthiness.

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