The Royal Air Force’s Synergia counter-drone research and development programme has reached a significant milestone, achieving an initial operating capability (IOC) with the successful testing of the full range of integrated detect, track, ID, and defeat technologies.
Managed by Defence Equipment & Support’s Future Capability Group, using technology delivered by Leonardo, the Counter-Unmanned Aerial System (C-UAS) study is considered of high importance to national security and a means of further protecting UK main operating bases.
Leonardo, in conjunction with sub-contractors Metis Aerospace and SRC Inc, have successfully delivered ORCUS – a modular and scalable R&D system – in support of the next stage of the multi-million-pound programme which allows RAF Force Protection operators to evaluate a range of capabilities including advanced sensors and effectors. In due course, further sub-systems will be integrated for testing and evaluation.
“This project is facilitating the rapid development of the knowledge necessary to define future capability to protect RAF sites and assets and, as a result, is supporting the development of world-leading understanding of counter-UAS technologies within UK defence”
The RAF will also maintain ORCUS as an upgraded national standby capability which, in the event of a drone-based crisis, can be rapidly deployed anywhere in the country for the provision of Military Aid to Civil Authorities.
RAF Wing Commander Rob Wilson said: “Project Synergia is delivering the Orcus R&D system hardware through the Future Capabilities Group (FCG) within DE&S and involves a close partnership between the prime contractor, Leonardo UK, the FCG, Air Capability and the RAF FP Force.
“This project is facilitating the rapid development of the knowledge necessary to define future capability to protect RAF sites and assets and, as a result, is supporting the development of world-leading understanding of counter-UAS technologies within UK defence.”
Elements of the ORCUS system, in conjunction with Leonardo support, were operated by the RAF Force Protection Force in 2018 and 2019 following drone sightings at Gatwick and Heathrow airports. This rapid intervention allowed airport operations to be resumed safely.
The current phase of the programme, which started in 2019, supports 20 highly-skilled jobs at Leonardo with the primary integration work being undertaken at its Basildon and Southampton sites and real-time testing taking place at several MOD locations within the UK.