The U.S. Department of Defense has selected Leonardo’s BriteCloud active expendable decoy to carry out foreign comparative testing with the U.S. Air National Guard (ANG) under the remit of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, a program that could lead to a U.S. forces-wide adoption of the countermeasures system.
Foreign Comparative Test (FCT) is an avenue by which the DoD identifies and tests allied-developed technologies that are not necessarily being developed by U.S. industry, specifically systems that have a high technology readiness level (TRL) so that they can be rapidly adopted. ANG Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters will be used throughout this test campaign, which is due to begin in the coming months and is expected to last some two to three years. While the testing will be led by the service itself, Leonardo will be involved throughout. Leonardo said that BriteCloud will be tested in a variety of challenging scenarios to provide a high level of confidence in the performance of the system, demonstrating its ability to defeat radar-guided missile attacks.
BriteCloud is a self-contained radio-frequency countermeasure that separates from the aircraft it is deployed from, which adds to the survivability of the platform that is being targeted by the missile. The “218” version will be used, which is compatible with the AN/ALE-47 countermeasure dispensers on the ANG’s F-16s.
“Under the Foreign Comparative Test program, the U.S. government looks to allies that have developed technology that has a high TRL in order to satisfy requirements quickly and economically,” Jon McCullagh, head of strategic campaigns for EW at Leonardo Electronics, told AIN. “BriteCloud, having already been approved for service by the Royal Air Force, is the only such system worldwide to be at such an advanced technology readiness level, which is one of the reasons why it has been selected for the program.”
Should the FCT testing be a success, McCullagh explained, it would ultimately give the system the “U.S. government seal of approval,” essentially proving it to be equally valid for other U.S. services. There has been a lot of interest in BriteCloud from areas of the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, and we are sure that they will be watching the progress and performance of the system during the FCT program,” he added.
The 55 mm version of BriteCloud entered service with the RAF’s Panavia Tornado GR.Mk 4 fleet in April 2018, although this fighter is no longer in UK service. The 55 mm countermeasure could be integrated into other conformal dispensers on aircraft including the Eurofighter Typhoon, although Leonardo could not comment on the status of this integration, other than to say that BriteCloud is designed to fit in a standard dispenser and therefore additional integration work for deployment from the Typhoon would not be required.
McCullagh did note, however, that there is “significant international interest” in BriteCloud, and the company is working with countries in Europe and the Middle East to potentially field the decoy on different aircraft types. It has previously been trialed on the Royal Danish Air Force’s F-16 fighter. He added that the U.S. ANG work represents the “most significant export prospect for the system to date.”