8.1.2020

UK Swarm unit delayed

UK ‘swarming drone’ timeline in doubt as development unit delayed – link

Source: Jane’s 

By the end of 2019 the UK had planned to stand-up 216 Squadron as a unit dedicated to developing 'swarming drone' concepts for the RAF. A delay to this will likely have ramifications for plans to field this capability by mid-2020. (Crown Copyright)

Article Headlines

  • The UK’s ambitious plans to field an operational ‘swarming drone’ capability by the middle of this year looks to be in doubt as the experimental unit dedicated to developing the concept has yet to be stood-up
  • The unit was scheduled to be activated by the end of 2019 and the spokesperson did not give a reason for the delay
  • In February 2019 the then-Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson, said that by the end of that year the Royal Air Force (RAF) would operationally field “swarm squadrons of network-enabled drones capable of confusing and overcoming enemy air defence systems”
  • In July 2019 the then-Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, clarified the minister’s comments by saying that 216 Squadron would be stood-up by the end of the year to develop the concept, with the capability itself to be delivered by about July 2020

Overview & Comments

  • In March 2019 it was reported that the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has awarded £2.5m to a consortium led by Blue Bear Systems Research Ltd to develop drone swarm technology
  • The funding will steer the project for around 20 UAS into the final stage of development, which will ultimately be managed by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL)
  • This announcement follows the recent allocation of £31m by Secretary Gavin Williamson into new mini drones
  • Money from the Transformation Fund will provide troops with an eye-in-the-sky to give them greater awareness to outmaneuver enemies on the battlefield
  • The £160m Transformation Fund is used to develop the mentioned swarm squadrons of network enabled drones

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