Leonardo’s BriteCloud 218 expendable active decoy (EAD) has won clearance from the U.S. Air Force’s Seek Eagle Office (AFSEO)—the service’s Eglin-based center of excellence for store/platform compatibility—for operational testing on the Lockheed Martin F-16. The U.S. Air National Guard will conduct a series of validation flight tests this year, bringing an end to the Department of Defense’s Foreign Comparative Testing (FCT) program for the product.
The end-result of the FCT is the clearance of BriteCloud 218 for off-the-shelf procurement by U.S. forces. However, the EAD is also receiving considerable interest from international air arms, particularly those that operate the F-16, and there are a number of opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region.
Building on its extensive experience in radio frequency countermeasures, Leonardo has devised the BriteCloud as a countermeasure that is fired from standard chaff/flare dispensers. The initial version has a cylinder with a diameter of 55 millimeters to match European dispensers, and first became operational on the Tornado fighter-bombers—and subsequently Typhoons—of the Royal Air Force. The BriteCloud 55-T, with more powerful jamming capability, has been developed to protect large aircraft with higher radar signatures.
BriteCloud 218 is smaller dimensionally, packaged into a rectangular-section cartridge measuring 2-by-1-by-8 inches, sized to fit U.S. dispensers such as the ALE-47 Airborne Countermeasures Dispenser System fitted to the F-16 and many other types. BriteCloud 218 first underwent testing on a Danish F-16, and in 2021 was successfully trialed aboard a German remotely-piloted aerial target system. If acquired by the U.S. Air Force, the BriteCloud 218 could augment and possibly supersede the ALE-50 towed radar decoy.
Fired in the same manner as an infrared decoy flare, BriteCloud houses a powerful miniature jammer that emits “electronic ghost” signals to lure incoming radar-guided missiles away from the launch aircraft, causing them to detonate at a safe distance from the intended target. It incorporates Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) technology that tailors the jamming signals to specific threat radars and works against all current threat types.
Fired from existing countermeasure systems, the BriteCloud requires no alteration to the airframe, or expensive integration, and so represents a cost-effective way of providing high-end protection for a range of platforms, including special-mission platforms, unmanned air vehicles, transports, and helicopters.