Banshee Whirlwind is manufactured by QinetiQ's Target Systems business. Image courtesy of QinetiQ.
Indonesia received 59 unmanned Banshee Whirlwind systems in April 2020. Image courtesy of QinetiQ.
The aerial target system has a launch speed of 115km/h.

Banshee Whirlwind is an advanced remotely piloted aerial target system manufactured by QinetiQ’s Target Systems business.

The unmanned system is a part of the Banshee family of aerial targets. The Whirlwind aerial target system has been operational with more than 30 countries.

QinetiQ’s Target System business signed a contract with Indonesia to provide 59 unmanned Banshee Whirlwind systems in May 2019. The company completed the delivery of the aerial targets and customer training by April 2020.

Banshee development details

The Banshee aerial target drone was originally developed by Target Technology in the 1980s. Meggitt Defence Systems UK (MDS) took over the development and production of the target systems.

Meggitt combined MDS and Meggitt Training Systems Canada (MTSC) into a single business known as Meggitt Target Systems in June 2015. The company continuously upgraded the Banshee models.

QinetiQ bought Meggitt Target Systems in a transaction valued at £57.5m ($71.13m) in December 2016. The deal also included the company’s production and development facilities in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada and Ashford, Kent, UK.

The Banshee system entered into service in the 1980s. It underwent multiple modifications to offer improved maintainability, operability, and reliability. The latest version features improved aerodynamics.

Banshee Whirlwind design and features

Banshee Whirlwind has a maximum length of 2.95m, a height of 0.78m, a wingspan of 2.49m, and a wing area of 2.42m².

It can be used on sea and land, and can be recovered using a parachute.

Whirlwind is designed to test air-to-air and surface-to-air weapon systems. Performance of the system can be varied with the use of weapon-proven plug-in modules.

The unmanned drone can be operated in autonomous mode from launch to recovery stages. It allows simultaneous operation of up to four vehicles from a single ground station when it is flying in autonomous mode.

Payloads and communications

Banshee Whirlwind can carry up to 16 infrared tracking flares, 16 smoke tracking flares, IFF transponder capable of modes A and C, active radar augmenters, radar altimeter, sea-skimming module, and acoustic and doppler radar with miss distance indicator (MDI) capabilities.

Tracking and telemetry of the target system are carried out by the onboard telemetry systems, integrated global positioning system (GPS), and autonomous waypoint navigation systems.

Banshee Whirlwind is fitted with the company’s combined autopilot and surveillance payload avionics (CASPA). The avionics system that includes inertial measurement unit (IMU) and digital autopilot contributes to the stabilisation of the drone.

The aerial system is customisable based on client needs. It can be equipped with different weapon system sensors including chaff and infrared decoy dispensing pods, daylight surveillance package, pyrotechnic visual and infrared improvements, active and passive radar enhancements, and the Hot Nose black-body infrared augmentation device.

Engine and performance of Banshee Whirlwind

The Banshee Whirlwind is powered by a thrust rotary engine mounted at the rear of the drone. The engine generates a static thrust of 40kg. The target drone has a maximum endurance of more than 90 minutes and can achieve a speed ranging between 165km/h and 370km/h. The unmanned target system can attain a launch speed of 115km/h and reach an operational range of more than 100km.

The aerial system has the capacity to fly at an altitude of over 7,000m and with the addition of a radar altimeter, the target drone can achieve a reliable, controlled sea-skimming flight at a minimum altitude of 5m.

QinetiQ’s aerial targets variants

The Banshee family of aerial targets offered by QinetiQ’s Target Systems business are used to represent threats posed by hostile aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and modern aerial threat weapons.

The different variants of Banshee are used for testing the performance and readiness of weapon systems such as man-portable air-defence (MANPAD) missiles/surface-to-air missiles, air-to-air missiles, and cannon systems.

In addition to Whirlwind, QinetiQ’s fixed-wing aerial target range includes Banshee Jet 40, Banshee Jet 80, Banshee Jet 80+, Banshee NG, Snipe and Vindicator.