BriteCloud Simulation and Trials
Since the unveiling of BriteCloud in late 2013, the Expendable Active Decoy (EAD) has continually undergone a range of trials with Leonardo electronic warfare technologists working alongside UK and overseas defence forces to confirm the full operational capability of the decoy.
The self-contained Digital RF Memory (DRFM) jammer is designed to disrupt incoming missiles’ RF tracking systems and produce an impressive ‘miss distance’, in response to a growing range of airborne and surface-based RF threats to fast jet aircraft. BriteCloud is ejected from a standard flare dispenser, with any incoming threat drawn away from the aircraft, minimising the risk of an incoming missile exploding close to the aircraft.
Gripen fighter aircraft first to trial BriteCloud
Swedish defence company, Saab, was the first to offer the decoy as an electronic warfare enhancement option on all versions of its Gripen fast jet, including the Gripen E. The aircraft is used extensively by the Swedish Air Force, and exported to other forces in Europe, South Africa and Thailand.
Saab's first trials took place in Sweden during early 2015, using the 55mm diameter version of BriteCloud which is compatible with the standard chaff and flare dispenser size operated by Gripen and other fighter aircraft. During three flights, BriteCloud was successfully deployed from a Gripen fighter, demonstrating three safe and effective releases from a standard Gripen countermeasure dispenser.
Wing Commander Flying at Saab, Hans Einerth, said: “These trials successfully validated the in-flight mechanical compatibility of BriteCloud with Gripen’s countermeasures system. The tests showed good clearance margins and allow further system integration work to go forward. The Gripen electronic warfare system is continuously updated to meet emerging threats, and BriteCloud integration is an important step in this process.”
BriteCloud trials undertaken with Royal Air Force
As part of the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) investment in the BriteCloud technology, the Royal Air Force (RAF) conducted initial trials on a Tornado in early 2014. The RAF then held a further trial at a specialist testing range in the USA during October 2015 using the Tornado GR4. Several fully functional decoys were launched from the aircraft as it was tracked by ground-based advanced RF threat systems. The decoys performed as planned, automatically detecting threat radars and jamming them with BriteCloud’s embedded DRFM jammer.
The successful initial evaluation of BriteCloud led the RAF to purchase a significant number of the decoys in September 2016. This was part of a second stage to extend evaluation of BriteCloud’s protective effect with its fleet of Tornado jets, and develop a ‘concept of operations’ (CONOPS) for the technology, which will characterise the decoy’s behaviour in realistic scenarios and develop ways for combat use.
In supporting the US trials, extensive modelling and simulation of the various engagement scenarios was performed using Tactical Engagement Simulation Software (TESS) produced by Leonardo subsidiary Tactical Technologies Inc. TESS was utilised before, during and after the trials, with excellent correlation between the simulated and real world data.
Developing and testing BriteCloud 218
The successful trials of the BriteCloud 55mm variant by the Swedish Air Force and RAF have more recently been followed by the development and testing of BriteCloud 218. This fits the jammer technology into 2”x1”x8” dimensions, to be compatible with aircraft that use this standard size of flare cartridge, such as the widely-operated F-16 and F-15.
The 218 system was tested by the Royal Danish Air Force on one of their F-16 aircraft, fitting directly into the F-16’s standard flare dispenser with no integration work required. During the mission, the jet dispensed BriteCloud 218 in response to being locked onto by a real radar-guided surface-to-air missile targeting system.
The trial proved that the technology has been successfully adapted into the smaller format and that it could be easily and quickly integrated onto a new platform type.
A new impetus in BriteCloud development
Ongoing development of BriteCloud and associated EAD technology has been strengthened further by Leonardo signing up as the first company to partner with the RAF’s newly-established Rapid Capability Office (RCO). The RCO has been established to develop defence technologies and capabilities in a faster more streamlined fashion.
Its first joint project will see the RAF and Leonardo each invest in a project to create the next generation of fighter jet countermeasures, using the proven BriteCloud technology. The RCO and Leonardo are also working to clear the existing BriteCloud EAD for operational use on front-line aircraft.