BriteCloud Decoy Goes Global

The RAF is working to deploy BriteCloud 55 on its Typhoon fleet before the platform receives its new Smart Stores Dispenser.

Interest in the Leonardo BriteCloud decoy system is growing around the world. It allows pilots to eject a round from their standard chaff or flare dispensers that will emit signals similar to, but stronger than, the radar returns of the platforms, causing inbound missiles to divert from the aircraft and toward the decoy.

“The work with the U.S. is ongoing,” said Rob Laidlar, a former UK Royal Air Force fast-jet squadron leader who is now campaign manager for combat air electronic warfare with Leonardo’s electronics division. “We’ve got a really good, close working relationship with the guard, and with the American acquisition community, based on this work.

“A Foreign Comparative Test is a process reserved for technologies which cannot be found in the U.S., which the U.S. may find useful in service,” he continued. “BriteCloud is the only product of its type in the world at the moment, so is really quite groundbreaking.”

The U.S. Air National Guard is due to conduct a technical valuation of BriteCloud on F-16s, though Laidlar is unable to say when the process will transition to flight testing. It also is going to take some time for the process to conclude.

“It’s a really rigorous process,” he said. “It’s not some kind of science experiment; it’s a really comprehensive test-and-trial process which generates an actual operational capability. At the end of it, there should be a fully validated product. That process does take a while and is probably going to be measured in terms of months, if not toward two years. At the end of that, hopefully an operational capability will be declared. But that will be 12 months to two years from now.”

The 55T version of BriteCloud is optimized for larger, slower-moving aircraft.

BriteCloud is available in two versions, with a third variant nearing production. The original version, BriteCloud 55, is a cylindrical round that will fit the standard 55mm flare-and-chaff dispensers used by many Western European military aircraft. BriteCloud 218 packages the same capability into a rectangular (2 x 1 x 8 in.) “brick,” suitable to be dispensed by F-series jets. The third variant—BriteCloud 55T—is a 55mm round optimized for larger, slower-moving transport aircraft.

“What we’ve done within the 55T is improved the output of the battery and the power amplifier, and increased the overall power output of the round,” Laidlar explained. “[The purpose is] that it generates sufficient power to mask the greater radar cross-section of a larger aircraft such as a [Lockeed Martin C-130] Hercules or an [Airbus] A400M. That’s useful for when you have to put larger aircraft into potential harm’s way, such as VIP or special-mission aircraft, which by dint of what they do tend to get closer to threats than maybe other transport aircraft.”

Back in the UK, meanwhile, BriteCloud is being tested ahead of deployment on the RAF’s Eurofighter Typhoon fleet. The system was fielded on the Panavia Tornado and flown on combat operations shortly before that platform was retired.

“Some tests have already been undertaken,” Laidlar noted. These were “some comprehensive trials to confirm the interaction between BriteCloud and Typhoon. We expect further announcements about operational capability in the near future.”

BriteCloud’s integration onto the Typhoon appears to have taken longer than anticipated because of delays fielding the platform’s forthcoming Smart Stores Dispenser. When integrated, the new dispenser will use 218-format rounds; until then, Typhoon’s stores are in 55mm format.

“In lieu of getting ready for smart dispense, a regular—if you will—integration of BriteCloud onto Typhoon is underway,” Laidlar says. “That [means] we afford that capability uplift to the aircraft ahead of smart dispense.”

The integration of the 55mm version ought to help ease the process of integrating BriteCloud 218 once the new dispensers are fitted.

“There’s a lot of work that reads across to a smart-dispense store as well,” Laidlar added. “In terms of how the aircraft will use the store, how it flies with it, and how it performs, that reads across. So initially it would be the 55mm version; then in the future it would go down the smart-dispense route, as and when the aircraft is ready for that.”

Angus Batey

Angus Batey has been contributing to various titles within the Aviation Week Network since 2009, reporting on topics ranging from defense and space to business aviation, advanced air mobility and cybersecurity.