Leonardo Continues Development of 'World-First' Radar Jammer

 - June 2, 2017, 7:55 AM
The BriteCloud radar jamming offboard decoy is no larger than a drink can, and fully self-contained. (Photo: Leonardo)

The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) and Leonardo are jointly investing more funds to develop the BriteCloud next-generation radar jamming decoy for fighter aircraft. Leonardo’s UK-based electronic warfare business (then branded as Selex-Galileo) revealed the product in late 2013, claiming a “world-first.” The company initially hoped to secure launch customers via the Saab Gripen program. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) later paid £25 million ($32 million) to progress the development of BriteCloud in 2015, including flight tests on an RAF Tornado.  

But although Leonardo proclaimed success in live flight trials on both the Gripen and an RAF Tornado, the product has apparently not gone operational with either the RAF or the Swedish air force. Leonardo has not announced any other customers for what it has previously described as a “second-generation expendable active decoy (EAD).” Now the company says that it is developing BriteCloud into a “third generation EAD, details of which are currently classified.” The new UK government investment to help achieve this is coming via the RAF’s recently established Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO), which is supposed to bring new technology into service via a faster, more streamlined procurement process.

BriteCloud takes advantage of the miniaturization of electronics to package a battery-powered radiating decoy into a canister no larger than a drink can. It can therefore be dispensed from the standard flare cartridges that are fitted to most fast jets. Leonardo says that it protects them from modern radar-guided missiles that are able to outwit older countermeasures such as chaff, or radiating onboard jammers that are susceptible to "home-on-jam" techniques.

BriteCloud has pop-out fins that help to create a significant distance between the decoy and its launch aircraft, so that the incoming missile misses by a large margin. During flight, its Digital RF Memory (DFRM) jammer detects RF emissions and cross- references them against its pre-programmed threat library. Upon finding a match, the decoy applies advanced algorithms and emits a deception signal to defeat the threat radar and incoming missile.

It is reprogrammable against emerging threats, or those threats that are specific to a particular region. Leonardo says that BriteCloud costs significantly less to procure than other offboard-deployable jamming systems such as the towed radar decoy. The company claims that the simple repeater-based techniques employed by such systems are able to defeat only legacy continuous-wave emitters.