WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
As energy and lifting systems get better and more powerful in the future drones won’t just be limited to dropping torpedoes …
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In what has been described as a “world first,” a BAE Systems and Malloy Aeronautics T-600 heavy lift Uncrewed Air System (UAS) drone was used to launch an inert Sting Ray training torpedo during a recent North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exercise. Conducted in waters off the coast of Portugal, many of the world’s militaries have watched the exercise with keen eyes.
While described by the team as a “world first,” there have been torpedo-carrying unmanned aerial vehicles in the past. The most notable example is the Gyrodyne DSN-3 “Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter” (DASH). Developed in the late 1950s, the DASH entered service in 1962 and was retired around 1970.
The T-600 test was part of the exercise of NATO’s Robotic Experimentation and Prototyping with Maritime Uncrewed Systems (REPMUS) 2023. It involved fifteen different NATO partners and representatives from Ireland and Sweden.
A world first
“In just two years since we launched our collaboration with Malloy, we’ve developed a heavy lift UAS and, working with the UK Royal Navy and Portuguese Navy, have taken part in the latest NATO REPMUS exercise,” said Neil Appleton, Head of Sustainable Electric Products, BAE Systems Air. “The demonstration showcased the capability of our T-600 technology demonstrator, carrying an inert Sting Ray torpedo in front of the world’s premier naval forces.”
At first glance, the T-600 appears to be a quadcopter drone used for filming, but it’s the size of a compact car. This electric-powered aircraft is designed for demonstration purposes and can be easily disassembled for transport. It boasts a payload capacity of 441 pounds (200 kg), a top speed of 87 mph (140 kph), and a range of up to 50 miles (80 km).
During the demonstrations, a “Sting Ray” training variant anti-submarine torpedo was dropped, marking the first time a drone had deployed such a weapon as part of a sea mission. The primary goal was to showcase the anti-submarine warfare capabilities of the T-600, as well as its potential for automated logistics, resupply, casualty evacuation, and other tasks.
“Our development of Sting Ray Mod 2 is focussed not only on weapon effectiveness once deployed but also on increasing [how] Sting Ray can be deployed. As part of this, we are extending the breadth of platform interfaces supported and are maturing new torpedo deployment mechanisms, including drones, to explore the operational benefits to Anti-Submarine Warfare and or Anti-Torpedo defense,” said Dave Quick, Head of Underwater Weapons, BAE Systems Maritime Services.
BAE Systems plans to use the T-600 as the foundation for the T-650, a heavy-lift UAS that is entirely electric and can be quickly reconfigured for military, commercial, and humanitarian customers.
“Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) can be quick to launch and easy to carry. They represent another opportunity to keep higher-cost assets and crew out of harm’s way. They will have an increasing ASW role alongside crewed helicopters and dedicated ASW surface vessels. UAS launched Sting Ray would enable torpedo capability to be carried by various naval platforms, providing increased operational flexibility for using ‘Sting Ray,'” added Quick.
“At Malloy Aeronautics, we are committed to quickly turning concept ideas into real capabilities. Our smaller T-150 UAS has been tested and operated by the UK MoD and US DoD for years. Still, the T-600 has gone from concept to operational demonstrator in record time for a vehicle in this payload class,” explained Oriol Badia, CEO of Malloy Aeronautics.
“The collaborative success seen at REPMUS adds to the list of promising capabilities being tested with this platform (last-mile resupply and CASEVAC) and proves that modular, multi-mission UAS can reduce the logistics burden and increase operational tempo at a fraction of the cost,” he added.