Drone to Carry Laser-Guided Missile

If Ministry of Defence funding is granted, the next generation Hydra 400 drone could be set to carry the 1.8m, 50kg Brimstone laser-guided missile By Abi Wylie / 15 Sep 2023
Drone to Carry Laser-Guided Missile
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The Hydra 400 drone, alongside an Aether mothership, is on display at the British Army’s stand at DSEI London (12-15 September).

The Hydra 400 is a new generation of heavy lift drone using hybrid propulsion technology. Compact and portable, the drone can be transported in the back of a Hilux or similar and assembled ready for flight in six minutes. 

The drone is powered by single spool jet turbines, producing 500N (50kg) thrust providing a maximum lift of 400kg (882lbs).

It is proposed that the Hydra 400 carry a lethal payload, the Brimstone missile developed by Stevenage-based MBDA, which is the strategic partner to the MoD for complex weapons.

The Brimstone missile weighs 50kg, is 1.8 meters in length and has a 180mm diameter. It is guided by millimetric wave radar and semi-active laser.

Brimstone offers ‘one missile, multi-platform’ versatility and is designed to be integrated onto helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, land vehicles, naval platforms and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). 

The missile is battle proven with over 98% success rate in defeating static, moving and manoeuvring target sets including main battle tanks and other armoured vehicles.

An Anduril Ghost Drone would provide real time Artificial Intelligence, surveillance and multi-mission reconnaissance capability, which, when combined with the versatility of the Hydra drone and the precision of the Brimstone missile, is set to form a fully automated ‘end to end’ decision support weapon system.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) funding will be needed for Hydra Drones Ltd to progress this proposed concept. 

If MoD funding is provided, Hydra and a dummy-payload representing Brimstone will be tested during the next phase of the Army’s Warfighting Experiment (AWE).

This is a series of trials and experiments across the UK and overseas where industry partners have been tasked with providing solutions to the challenges of urban warfare, harnessing tech to prepare for complex future warfare. The next AWE phase, Exercise Blunting Strike, will be in November.

At last year’s AWE, a range of UAS systems that use different technologies to defeat drones were put through their paces, for example one unique drone capability tested was carrying blood plasma to injured soldiers on the battlefield, while other drones demonstrated how they could evacuate casualties.

The Hydra XL 300 and Malloy T400 drones, for instance, showed how they could lift a casualty of up to 120kg over a range of up to 25km, with spare capacity and zero emissions.

The results of AWE will provide evidence to inform the Army and Defence which capabilities should be invested in and developed for the Army to remain competitive on the global stage.

Dr Stephen Prior, CEO of Hydra Drones Ltd, said, “The Army Warfighting Experiment has provided the framework and opportunity for British SMEs, like Hydra Drones Ltd, to collaborate with traditional primes, such as MBDA, but also to be competitive in their own right and innovate at a speed that larger companies might struggle with.”

General Sir Patrick Sanders, Army Chief of the General Staff, said, “When the electro-magnetic spectrum is so heavily contested, automation fails, and the skill of the pilot predominates. We need ‘war fighters’ – whether they are cyber specialist, drone pilots or infantry soldiers – to be stronger, faster, more intelligent and more resilient. By the end of this year, we will form a new UAS Group within a reorientated Joint Aviation Command, providing a focal point for industry, around which we intend to develop the next generation of UAS platforms in ever closer partnership.”

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