In a groundbreaking achievement, a BAE Systems/Malloy Aeronautics T-600 heavy lift Uncrewed Air System (UAS) successfully executed the launch of an inert Sting Ray training torpedo during a recent NATO exercise in the waters near Portugal. This significant event has garnered the attention of military forces worldwide.
Malloy Aeronautics specialises in unmanned aviation systems and electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) vehicles. It is headquartered in the United Kingdom and is known for its innovative contributions to drone and eVTOL technology.
“Inert Sting Ray” refers to a non-explosive or non-active version of the Sting Ray torpedo. It is used for training and practice purposes, lacking the operational version’s live warhead or explosive components.
The Sting Ray torpedo is a lightweight anti-submarine torpedo used by various navies worldwide. It is designed to target and neutralise submarines, typically equipped with a homing system for precision targeting. The torpedo is known for its manoeuvrability and effectiveness in underwater warfare.
In torpedoes and missiles, a homing system refers to a guidance system that allows the weapon to autonomously seek and home in on its intended target. It uses various sensors and algorithms to detect and track the target, making necessary course adjustments to ensure accurate targeting. This technology is commonly used in anti-submarine torpedoes like the Sting Ray to locate and track enemy submarines.
A “world first”
Although the team referred to it as a “world first,” there have been previous instances of torpedo-carrying unmanned aerial vehicles. The Gyrodyne DSN-3, known as the “Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter” (DASH), is a notable example. It was developed in the late 1950s, entered service in 1962, and was retired around 1970.
The T-600 test was conducted as a component of NATO’s Robotic Experimentation and Prototyping with Maritime Uncrewed Systems (REPMUS) 2023 exercise. This exercise brought together fifteen distinct NATO member countries and included representatives from Ireland and Sweden.
Neil Appleton, Head of Sustainable Electric Products at BAE Systems Air, mentioned to a media house that in only two years since its partnership with Malloy began, the company successfully created a heavy lift UAS and, in collaboration with the UK Royal Navy and Portuguese Navy, participated in the recent NATO REPMUS exercise. He continued, “The demonstration highlighted the capabilities of the T-600 technology demonstrator, which carried an inert Sting Ray torpedo in front of some of the world’s foremost naval forces.
At first glance, the T-600 resembles a quadcopter drone commonly used for filming, but it’s actually as large as a compact car. This electric-powered aircraft serves demonstration purposes and can be conveniently disassembled for transportation. It proudly features a payload capacity of 441 pounds (200 kg), can reach a top speed of 87 mph (140 kph), and has a range that extends up to 50 miles (80 km).
In a groundbreaking demonstration, the T-600 successfully deployed a “Sting Ray” training variant anti-submarine torpedo, setting a historic precedent as the first drone to use such a weapon during a maritime mission. The primary objective was to highlight the T-600’s capabilities in anti-submarine warfare and its potential for tasks such as automated logistics, resupply, casualty evacuation, and more.
Dave Quick, Head of Underwater Weapons at BAE Systems Maritime Services, emphasised that the development of Sting Ray Mod 2 is not solely centred on the weapon’s effectiveness post-deployment but also on expanding how Sting Ray can be deployed. As part of this effort, they are broadening the range of supported platform interfaces and advancing new mechanisms for torpedo deployment, including drones, to assess the operational advantages in Anti-Submarine Warfare and Anti-Torpedo defence.
BAE Systems intends to use the T-600 as the basis for developing the T-650, an all-electric, heavy-lift Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) that can be rapidly adapted to serve the needs of military, commercial, and humanitarian clients.
Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) are known for their swift deployment and portability, offering an additional means of keeping more expensive assets and crew members safe from harm. They are expected to play an expanding role in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) alongside crewed helicopters and specialised ASW surface vessels. Launching Sting Ray torpedoes through UAS makes it possible to equip various naval platforms with torpedo capabilities, enhancing operational flexibility in deploying “Sting Ray,” as highlighted by Quick.
Proof of concept
Oriol Badia, CEO of Malloy Aeronautics, expressed the company’s dedication to rapidly transforming conceptual ideas into tangible capabilities. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the US Department of Defence (DoD) have tested and used the smaller T-150 UAS operationally for several years, whereas the T-600 has gone from concept to operational demonstrator in a remarkable amount of time, especially considering its payload class.
Oriol Badia, CEO of Malloy Aeronautics, highlighted that the collaborative achievements observed at REPMUS contribute to the growing list of promising capabilities being assessed with this platform, including last-mile resupply and Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC). This demonstrates that modular, multi-mission Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) have the potential to alleviate logistical challenges and enhance operational efficiency at a significantly lower cost.