UK Cancels Mosquito Loyal Wingman Demonstrator Program

 - June 25, 2022, 4:25 AM
This CGI depicts a notional LANCA uncrewed "loyal wingman" operating with an RAF F-35B. (Photo: UK Ministry of Defence)

Project Mosquito, the technology demonstrator for the UK’s uncrewed Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) program, has been terminated “beyond the design phase.” The announcement was made by the Royal Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) late on Friday evening.

“Through Project Mosquito and other experimentation activities the Royal Air Force has made substantial progress and gained significant value in understanding and harnessing a range of future uncrewed capabilities,” said Air Commodore Jez Holmes, head of the RCO, in the accompanying press release. “This decision maximizes the learning accrued to date and enables a change of direction for the LANCA program. The Rapid Capabilities Office will now quickly launch activities to aggressively pursue the RAF’s unchanged firm commitment to integrate advanced uncrewed capabilities into the near-term force mix with more immediate beneficial value.”

The decision was made in the light of a detailed review of the Mosquito technology demonstrator and of the wider LANCA program. Analysis and capability experimentation has been undertaken in parallel by the RAF and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), leading to the conclusion that exploration of smaller and less costly additive capabilities could be more beneficial to LANCA and more cost-efficient. Dstl is the Ministry of Defence’s technical authority for the program.

LANCA was launched in 2015 to ultimately field a “loyal wingman” that could operate alongside current fighters such as the Typhoon and F-35B, and subsequently form part of the Future Combat Air System. Three bidders submitted proposals to develop and build the Mosquito technology demonstrator, and in January 2021 a team of Spirit AeroSystems (formerly Bombardier Belfast), Callen-Lenz, and Northrop Grumman UK received a three-year, £30 million contract for this work. The Mosquito air vehicle was due to fly by the end of 2023.

The decision to end the Mosquito demonstrator has no impact on the intent “to build the most capable and cost-effective force mix possible, or the loyal wingman concepts under investigation within the Future Combat Air System Enterprise,” notes the RCO in the release. “The program remains focused on the post-2035 capability space, where integration through a system-of-systems approach has been a key requirement from the outset.”