France will hunt radars with drone swarms copying an aircraft’s RCS

Without a doubt, overwhelming an adversary’s air defense with a swarm of drones is simpler than attempting to trick them. This introduces the idea of a Radar Equivalent Area, or to be exact, Radar Cross Section [RCS]. 

France will hunt radars with drone swarms copying an aircraft's RCS
Photo credit: iStock

The French Agency for Defense Innovation [AID] is spearheading contemporary development in this field. This is through their ASSYDUS project [Autonomous Decoy System Using UAV Swarms]. They’re working hand in hand with Thales DMS France SAS and the Research Laboratory for Computer Sciences Bordelais [LaBRI] to bring this concept to fruition.

Getting the right RCS

The fundamental aim, as endorsed by operational staff, is to align drones in a swarm formation in a manner that appears equivalent to an aircraft or battle drone on radar. This is intended to deceive the radar of any potential opponents’ anti-aircraft defense systems. 

“The abilities of a single drone might seem limited due to restrictions like weight, payload capacity, and spatial or temporal reach. However, when multiple drones come together to form a swarm, it remarkably expands the aerial abilities of the system, being seen as a single entity like an airplane by the operator. This is largely due to its autonomous decision-making capabilities,” AID explained in a briefing note for this project.

Encouraging results

Work has been underway to thoroughly research autonomous multi-rotor drones with promising early results. The instrumental teams involved with this project had achieved the sought-after Radar Cross Section [RCS] and successfully simulated an RCS produced by a swarm, factoring in its drone types and respective positions, as revealed by AID.

The agency further elaborated that the full process was put to the test during flight trials, verifying the progression course in real-time and confirming anticipated results. 

One potential use for ASSYDUS could be to dispatch drones one at a time towards an air defense system and then cluster them to actualize the RCS of a fighter bomber. 

A similar RAF experiment

This initiative harkens back to a 2020 endeavor carried out by the Rapid Capabilities Office [RCO] of the Royal Air Force [RAF]. The project involved maneuvering a squadron of drones, many of which were armed with a BriteCloud electronic warfare module, to deceive and overload radars that mimic an adversarial air defense system. 

In case you’ve forgotten, the BriteCloud system is a Digital Radio Frequency Memory [DRFM] device that captures radio signals, modifies them, and then disseminates them to scramble the information received by radar.

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