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Banshee Jet 80+ (Image source: QinetiQ)
There is no denying the sophistication of today’s defense industry, which will continue to grow and expand. And while the United States is undoubtedly taking the lead in producing high-tech, high-quality military equipment, other superpowers are also thriving in that department, including adversaries such as China, which has demonstrated rapid growth in recent years.
Among the many innovative technologies the American military adopted to train and prepare its men for the ever-changing landscape of modern warfare was using hyper-realistic unmanned drones as aerial target practice. These drones can be programmed to fly in various patterns and are capable of being equipped with sensors that allow soldiers to track their movements and assess the effectiveness of their fire.
QinetiQ Target Systems, a world-leading provider of unmanned drone targets for live-firing training, announced its latest deal with the US Army last week.
We are pleased to announce that we will be providing the US Army’s Threat Systems Management Office with a uniquely developed version of the Banshee Jet 80+ target, helping the US Army train for real-world scenarios.
In a press release, QinetiQ said it will provide the Army’s Threat System Management Office (TSMO) with a low-cost, specially developed variant of its Banshee Jet 80+ aerial target drone. Dubbed the MQM-185B, the drone will integrate with the TSMO’s proprietary Army Ground Aerial Target Control System, modifying QinetiQ’s innovative technology accordingly. As a result, the unmanned aerial target will serve as a hyper-realistic threat target to help train soldiers for real-world scenarios during training exercises.
Specially Modified Banshee Jet 80+
The Banshee Jet 80+ is QinetiQ’s latest remotely-piloted unmanned aerial target system for live-fire training. It can also perform tests and evaluations for weapons systems. This variant is a larger and more capable successor of the Banshee Jet 80, first introduced in 1983, equipped with better payload capacity and can fly at higher speeds with a more advanced autopilot system.
The platform offers the flexibility of conducting drills, simulating the behavior of both cruise missiles and fast enemy jets. The drone has a length of 2.85 m to 2.95 m, an overall height of 0.78 m, and a wingspan of 2.49 m, capable of simulating a wide range of targets. Moreover, following the requirements of the US Army, QinetiQ will deliver a Banshee Jet 80+ variant that can perform low-level sea skimming operations and reach an altitude of up to 30,000 feet (9,144 meters), further expanding real-world scenarios warfighters can practice on.
The base version of the Banshee Jet 80+ features a twin 45-kilogram thrust gas turbine engine capable of generating up to 90kg of static thrust. Thus, as stated in its fact sheet, it can expand its maximum straight and level airspeed up to 200 m/s. In addition, the unmanned aerial target drone incorporates an additional fuel tank, emulating a single-engine configuration that typically enables a mission time exceeding 45 minutes with varying throttle settings.
How it works is that Banshee Jet 80+ uses a 60 ft pneumatic launcher system capable of operating autonomously or by a ground-based controller. It utilizes different sensors that allow it to be tracked and engaged by a weapon system. Once hit or completing its flight mission, the drone cuts its engine and uses a parachute for its operators to recover.
Overall, the Banshee Jet 80+ is made suitable for land and sea, as well as for use against surface-to-air and air-to-air weapon systems. It emphasizes flexibility and easy modification through plug-in modules, making it one of the world’s most sought-after aerial target drones.
Most Sought-After Platform
The Banshee Jet, in general, has been in service with the British Army since its inception in the 1980s. With its good track record of thousands of in-service flight operation hours, the drone has also made its way to several countries, including the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Ryan Peterson, Customer Account Manager, QinetiQ Target Systems, highlighted in a statement the growing importance of employing precise and realistic targets in defense training, especially at a time when the threat landscape becomes more complex. Consequently, using advanced technology is a must that can facilitate intricate training and evaluation exercises, ensuring enhanced preparedness and effectiveness in dealing with evolving threats.
“The [modified] MQM-185B […] enables us to deliver a customised platform that satisfies TSMO requirements and makes its operations more agile and cost effective,” said Peterson, also expressing positive sentiment for the opportunity given to QinetiQ to provide support to the US Army.
Apart from winning the approval of the US Army, QinetiQ also delivered the Royal Navy’s Banshee Jet 80+ and is expected to conduct a series of flight tests this summer.
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