• Mon. Oct 3rd, 2022

QinetiQ: Support for Training to Counter Non-Traditional Aerial Threats

ByJanice K. Merrill

Jul 1, 2022

Over the past 30 years, there has been an increase in what might be called ‘non-traditional air threats’, with non-state actors becoming key players in global events. These airborne threats could impact military operations or wider civil society through a wide range of risks of relative likelihood and magnitude of potential impact. It includes threats such as rogue airliners, where the aircraft and passengers are the weapon and the aim is to maximize the terror effect, light aircraft used for surveillance, interference activities or small-scale ordnance delivery, and small RPAS platforms that, for minimal cost, can impede strategic activities or gather sensitive information.

Ensuring frontline forces are prepared for any eventuality, increasing the use of these non-traditional platforms presents a significant, ongoing, and ever-evolving training challenge. The key to solving this problem is creating flexible training solutions that can respond to different emerging threats. This will enable next-generation operational armed forces to manage activities across the spectrum, from high-level warfare against peer adversaries to mitigating the impact of asymmetric activities undertaken by non-state actors.

Rob Laidlar, Air Domain Manager for QinetiQ Training and Mission Rehearsal, described that “…using spare capacity within existing aircraft fleets could be a way to flexibly support non-traditional training tasks. …there is a reduced need to procure specific specialists or capabilities if the available platforms can successfully replicate the required threats.” This leveraging of current assets fits nicely into QinetiQ’s “Build-Test-Use” proposition. “, allowing maximum use of permanent abilities by creatively employing them to accomplish a range of standard and new tasks.

This approach would build on the efficiencies created by consolidating the traditionally separate areas of training and testing and assessment. Indeed, QinetiQ recently relaunched the LTPA (Long Term Partnering Agreement) as a T3E (Test, Trials, Training and Evaluation) service, highlighting how capabilities previously considered specific test assets can be effectively utilized in testing functions. operational training, and vice versa. The majority of these assets, capabilities, services and facilities are available in the UK under T3E, which is centrally funded by the MOD for use by frontline controls, which then cover activity specific costs. Examples of traditional test and evaluation assets that are available under long-term enablement contracts that could be used in training include the platforms below.

(Fig 1) Airliner threat interception and response could use aircraft such as the QinetiQ RJ70 as a practice target.

(Fig 2) PC21 or Grob aircraft could replicate light aircraft of interest, flying slow speed profiles that challenge the dynamics of fast jet fighters performing intercept and escort duties.

(Fig 3) The Banshee Jet 80+ produced by QinetiQ Target Systems, which recently flew from the deck of HMS Prince of Wales, could respond to a range of small RCS and medium to high speed target sets (400 kts+) . It could be equipped with a variety of payloads to increase the accuracy of threat replication.

(Fig 4) Slower speed RPAS tasks could be undertaken by the Banshee Whirlwind, replicating a range of potential threats and ready to operate in existing restricted range airspace.

There will always be a need for niche facilitators for training tasks where existing spare capacity or specific capabilities are not available. However, where possible, the flexible use of spare capacity within existing platforms, secured from a range of sources, would provide the frontline user with real training utility, while while simultaneously ensuring the most efficient use of assets.

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