QinetiQ, in partnership with the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and White Sands Missile Range High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility (HELSTF), has announced the successful flights of the first two Rattler Supersonic Target MkI drones.

As part of the High Energy Laser Measurement (HELM) Rattler programme and a QinetiQ-funded Research and Development project, the flights provided the first data for this design variant of the uncrewed target.

It also presented opportunities for the HELSTF Tracking Illuminating Laser System to acquire, track and queue from a supersonic target at a short slant range, aiding the program’s Rattler variant development, stated a QinetiQ release.

Graham Ollis, managing director of Threat Representation at QinetiQ, said: “This flight represents an important milestone in the Rattler transition to service project, and demonstrates our supersonic target capability in action for our US customer, as part of the HELM Rattler programme, to meet the requirement for evolving threats.”

Emulating a variety of advanced missile threats, Rattler ST is marketed as a cost-effective supersonic target platform designed for threat replication, operational training and system evaluation.

QinetiQ is customising the platform to support the US DoD’s HELM Rattler programme. It is integrating a third-party target board to measure high-energy laser characteristics in flight at supersonic speeds. The $10m programme started in February 2022 and is due to conclude in mid-2024.

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Target drones part of growing uncrewed market

According to GlobalData’s The Global Military Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) Market Forecast 2023-2033, the UAV market was valued at $10.9bn in 2023 and projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.5% through to 2033. The sector is expected to reach $18.6bn by 2033 and cumulatively value $171.81bn over the forecast period.

The market consists of five categories: High-Altitude Long-Endurance UAVs, Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance UAVs, Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicles, Loitering Munitions, and Target Drones.

Among geographic segments, Asia-Pacific is projected to dominate the sector with a share of 41.8%, followed by Europe and North America with 31.0% and 18.2%, respectively.