The self-contained jammer fits standard countermeasure dispensers and so can equip a wide range of platforms. It is designed to disrupt incoming missiles’ RF tracking systems and produce an impressive ‘miss distance’, minimising the risk of a missile exploding close to the platform.
Over the past decade, BriteCloud has been proven for operational use through a rigorous series of trials around the world, with Leonardo electronic warfare (EW) technologists working alongside UK and allied defence forces to confirm the decoy’s full operational capability. This includes the US Air National Guard, which issued a ‘fielding recommendation’ for BriteCloud 218 as part of a Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) programme involving US F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets. The US has subsequently designated BriteCloud 218 as AN/ALQ-260(V)1.
Testing has covered the ‘BriteCloud 55’ variant, which can be launched from a standard 55mm chaff and flare dispenser, and the smaller ‘BriteCloud 218’, which fits into 2”x1”x8” dimensions. Additionally, the BriteCloud 55-T variant is designed to protect large military transport aircraft.
Trials Programme Timeline
As part of the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) investment in BriteCloud, the Royal Air Force (RAF) conducted initial trials on Tornado in early 2014. This was followed by a further trial in the USA during October 2015 using the Tornado GR4.
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.
Swedish defence company, Saab, was the first to offer the decoy as an EW 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 BriteCloud 55 which is compatible with the standard chaff and flare dispenser size operated by Gripen and other fighter aircraft including Typhoon. During three flights, BriteCloud was successfully deployed from a Gripen fighter.
The successful trials of BriteCloud 55 by the Swedish Air Force and RAF were followed by the testing of BriteCloud 218, a smaller variant 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.