In a first, a VTOL combat drone fires advanced multi-role missiles

Flyby Technology's VTOL unmanned combat vehicle, Jackal, has fired an advanced multi-role missile potentially ushering in a new age of aerial combat.
Christopher McFadden
Image of the JACKALL test.
Image of the JACKALL test.


A new British-made Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) drone called JACKAL has just successfully fired a Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM). The test, which the Royal Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) sponsored, has reportedly marked a significant advancement in uncrewed air combat.

“War is about winning, and JACKAL is designed by war fighters for that ultimate aim. The days of having a Fighter Pilot in the cockpit are numbered and I realise I will not perhaps be loved for bringing about the end of my own kind. But the future of warfare is changing and JACKAL is part of that future as a true multi-role attack aircraft. We want to make JACKAL a flagship product, creating secure UK jobs and contributing to a new future for the British aerospace and defense industries,” said Jon Parker, Flyby Technology's CEO.

The recent successful test saw the JACKAL armed with the modular Thales LMM (known as the "Martlet" by the Royal Navy), specifically designed for maritime, air-to-surface, surface-to-surface, and surface-to-air engagements.

"The test not only involved firing two of the advanced missiles but also the construction of two JACKAL drones in six weeks to demonstrate its plug-and-play design that is intended to help avoid short-term obsolescence," reports New Atlas.

Drones, specifically Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles (UCAVs), have become a significant part of many air forces worldwide. But, jerry-rigging a weapon to a drone's wings or chassis is a far cry from an actual air combat vehicle, like a jet fighter. To this end, Flyby Technology has been working with Turkish partners FlyBVLOS Technology and Maxwell Innovation to develop the next generation in UCAVS, the JACKAL.

This new unmanned aerial combat platform is, by all accounts, being aimed at countries that cannot afford full-scale attack helicopters or light fighter aircraft. Being VTOL, the JACKAL doesn't require vulnerable runways or roads to operate from, yet it can carry out crucial strategic air combat roles. This could include, for example, air interdiction, close air support, or even anti-helicopter and anti-armor roles.

"Given the impressively short time scale it took the team to deliver the initial trial, it’s clear that Flyby could have an exciting future in this sector, and the partnering and support from Thales was outstanding in lowering the barriers to entry for innovative start-ups," said Air Commodore Jez Holmes, Head of the RCO. "I’m looking forward to seeing the ongoing developments in this area."

The JACKAL team is now developing plans for production using the capability while the aircraft is undergoing other enhancements and tactical development.

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