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Dual-Mode Brimstone UAV Launches a Success

During Operation Odyssey Dawn, Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s struck Libyan regime targets with more than 120 Dual-Mode Brimstones at a reported success rate of 98 percent. Now, the Brimstone, developed by MBDA, has carried its record of combat effectiveness over to the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) arena.

The primary and secondary trial objectives, set by the RAF, were met. Those objectives included functionality integration, safe carriage, safe release, system targeting, and final result.

In tests conducted at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif., in December 2013 and January 2014, Brimstone missiles launched from an MQ-9 Reaper UAV scored nine hits against an array of targets, according to a company release. Included in the target list were high speed and maneuvering vehicles. The Brimstone tests were carried out on behalf of the U.K. Ministry of Defence by the RAF’s Air Warfare Centre Unmanned Air Systems Test and Evaluation Squadron, Defence Equipment and Support Weapons Operating Centre, the U.S. Air Force’s Big Safari program, General Atomics, and MBDA. The primary and secondary trial objectives, set by the RAF, were met. Those objectives included functionality integration, safe carriage, safe release, system targeting, and final result.

Dual-Mode Brimstone

Three Dual-Mode Brimstone missiles can be fitted onto a weapons pylon. MBDA photo

The trials started with the captive carry of avionics and environmental data gathering missiles in order to prove that the Dual Mode Brimstone could be successfully integrated with the Reaper. Additional evidence was gathered during this phase in order to support future activities. This was followed by a series of live firings using operational and telemetry missiles.

The live Brimstone firings attempted to create real world situations by using ‘middle of the envelope’ profiles, typically with the missile firing occurring when the Reaper was at 20,000 feet and the target at a range of between 4 to 7 miles. The Reaper was remotely piloted and beyond the line of sight.

The live Brimstone firings attempted to create real world situations by using “middle of the envelope” profiles, typically with the missile firing occurring when the Reaper was at 20,000 feet and the target at a range of between 4 to 7 miles. The Reaper was remotely piloted and beyond the line of sight. The tracking and designation of targets were conducted via a mixture of manual-track and auto-track modes.

Dual-Mode Brimstone

A Dual-Mode Brimstone missile launched from an MQ-9 Reaper UAV intercepts a remotely-controlled target traveling at 50 mph. MBDA photo

The final results saw the Brimstone score nine direct hits in a range of scenarios. The scenarios included static, accelerating, weaving, fast, and very fast remotely-controlled targets. Some of the more challenging scenarios were against trucks traveling at 70 mph in a crossing target scenario. Reaper crews manually tracked the targets, showing how the integrated semi-active laser and active millimeter wave radar work in tandem to directly hit the target. This can be done even while the tracking and designating of targets is conducted manually over SATCOM.

The final results saw the Brimstone score nine direct hits in a range of scenarios. The scenarios included static, accelerating, weaving, fast, and very fast remotely-controlled targets. Some of the more challenging scenarios were against trucks traveling at 70 mph in a crossing target scenario.

The tests served to demonstrate the dual-mode seeker and robust guidance capability of the Brimstone. MBDA viewed the trials as another step in the ongoing spiral development of the Brimstone and a broadening of its applications into a multi-role, multi-platform, land/maritime missile.

Dual-Mode Brimstone

An MQ-9 Reaper-launched Dual-Mode Brimstone missile intercepts a target traveling at 70 mph. MBDA photo

The RAF is close to a decision on whether to arm its MQ-9 Reapers with the Brimstone. By holding the tests at China Lake, MBDA may also be hoping to spur potential U.S. interest in the Brimstone as a potential improvement on the AGM-114 Hellfire.

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Steven Hoarn is the Editor/Photo Editor for Defense Media Network. He is a graduate of...