The JACKAL drone system is capable of a range of combat missions over land, sea, and air and has completed a first trial firing of a Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM), bringing unmanned air combat a step closer to reality.

The JACKAL drone capability has been developed by UK-based Flyby Technology, with Turkish partners FlyBVLOS Technology and Maxwell Innovations providing design engineering and prototyping to fill a recently discovered gap in modern combat operations.

As a vertical take-off and landing platform, JACKAL is designed to satisfy several roles including Battlefield Air Interdiction, Close Air Support, engaging helicopters in flight, killing tanks, and denying the use of runways and roads.

The trial, sponsored by the Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) of the Royal Air Force, involved teams from Flyby and technology giant Thales, which also manufactures the LMM. Within six weeks, they built two operational JACKAL aircraft and successfully fired two LMMs.

Air Commodore Jez Holmes, head of the RAF RCO, said, “Given the impressively short time scale it took the team to deliver the initial trial, it is 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.”

The aircraft takes off and lands vertically, which is an advantage over traditional fighter jets as there is no need for vulnerable runways. JACKAL can operate from hidden locations such as woods and urban built-up areas.

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The JACKAL team is now developing plans for the productisation of the capability while the aircraft is undergoing other enhancements and tactical development. With the completion of the trial, the JACKAL drone has taken a step towards being able to carry out complex, unmanned air combat missions.

Thales has also delivered milestones on other projects such as the UK’s Type 31 Inspiration class frigates, with a successful NS110 radar surveillance system test as the UK and Thales strengthen.

Last month, Thales announced that the UK would see a significant jobs boost as part of a major global expansion. The French company announced it would create 1,000 new jobs in the country as part of a broader global push. Thales also reported 5.5% organic growth in sales for FY22.