Since unveiling BriteCloud as a world-first technology in November 2013, the Expendable Active Decoy (EAD) has undergone a rigorous trials programme with Leonardo electronic warfare technologists working alongside UK and allied defence forces to confirm the full operational capability of the decoy. Having gone into service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 2018, BriteCloud is attracting interest from around the world. It is currently undergoing the US Department of Defense’s Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) programme, which will open the door to US procurement.

The BriteCloud self-contained Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) jammer is designed to disrupt incoming missiles’ RF tracking systems and produce an impressive ‘miss distance’, in response to a growing range of airborne and surface-based RF threats to fast jet aircraft. BriteCloud is ejected from a standard flare dispenser, with any incoming threat drawn away from the aircraft, minimising the risk of an incoming missile exploding close to the aircraft.

Since first being trialled in 2014, BriteCloud has gone through rigorous testing by several air forces looking at both variants: ‘BriteCloud 55’, which can be launched from a standard 55mm chaff and flare dispenser, and the smaller ‘BriteCloud 218’, which fits into 2”x1”x8” dimensions.

Gripen Fighter Aircraft first to trial BriteCloud

Swedish defence company, Saab, was the first to offer the decoy as an electronic warfare enhancement option on all versions of its Gripen fast jet, including the Gripen E. The aircraft is used extensively by the Swedish Air Force, and exported to other forces in Europe, South Africa and Thailand.

Saab's first trials took place in Sweden during early 2015, using the 55mm diameter version of BriteCloud which is compatible with the standard chaff and flare dispenser size operated by Gripen and other fighter aircraft. During three flights, BriteCloud was successfully deployed from a Gripen fighter.

BriteCloud trials undertaken with Royal Air Force

As part of the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) investment in the BriteCloud technology, the Royal Air Force conducted initial trials on a Tornado in early 2014. A further trial was held at a specialist testing range in the USA during October 2015 using the Tornado GR4. The successful initial evaluation of BriteCloud led the RAF to purchase a significant number of the decoys in September 2016. This was part of a second stage to extend evaluation of BriteCloud’s protective effect with its fleet of Tornado jets, and develop a ‘concept of operations’ (CONOPS) for the technology, which characterise the decoy’s behaviour in realistic scenarios and develop ways for combat use.

In supporting the US trials, extensive modelling and simulation of the various engagement scenarios was performed using Tactical Engagement Simulation Software (TESS) produced by Leonardo. TESS was utilised before, during and after the trials, with excellent correlation between the simulated and real world data.

A new impetus in BriteCloud development

In 2017, ongoing development of BriteCloud and associated EAD technology was strengthened further by Leonardo signing up as the first company to partner with the RAF’s newly-established Rapid Capability Office (RCO). The RCO was established to develop defence technologies and capabilities in a faster more streamlined fashion.

Developing and testing BriteCloud 218

The successful trials of the BriteCloud 55mm variant by the Swedish Air Force and RAF were followed by the testing of BriteCloud 218, which is compatible with aircraft that use this standard size of flare cartridge, such as the widely-operated F-16 and F-15.

The 218 system was tested by the Royal Danish Air Force on one of their F-16 aircraft, fitting directly into the F-16’s standard flare dispenser with no integration work required. During the mission, the jet dispensed BriteCloud 218 in response to being locked onto by a real radar-guided surface-to-air missile targeting system. This trial proved that the technology has been successfully adapted into the smaller format and that it could be easily and quickly integrated onto a new platform type.

In March 2022, it was announced that trials involving Leonardo and the RAF with Italian Tornado aircraft and Danish F-16s had proven the effectiveness of new decoy techniques, readying the countermeasure for future threats. The trials involved both the BriteCloud 55 and 218 being programmed with new threat-defeating waveforms, enhancing the range of techniques that BriteCloud can employ against threat radars.

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