BriteCloud - protecting UK aircraft as the Royal Air Force enter their 2nd century

In the same week as the Royal Air Force launched its RAF100 centenary celebrations, Chief of Air Staff, ACM Sir Steve Hillier announced the green-lighting of Leonardo’s BriteCloud for operational use by the RAF Tornado GR4 aircraft.


Over the last few years, aircraft self-protection technology has focused on ‘asymmetric’ conflicts against terrorists and non-state actors, where UK forces have to defend themselves from deadly but relatively low-tech weapons such as heat-seeking missiles. However as the global climate has evolved, it has been recognised that UK Forces could be called upon to face much more sophisticated and well-armed opponents. With this in mind, BriteCloud was designed to face modern threats such as advanced radar-guided missiles that are being manufactured and fielded by developed nations.

BriteCloud is the modern version of traditional ‘chaff’ decoys that were originally introduced during WW2 but are still in use by most air forces today. Whereas chaff creates a cloud of tiny pieces of radar-reflecting aluminium to try to obscure the radar signature of a fast-jet aircraft, BriteCloud uses advanced miniature electronics to send out a realistic copy of the fast-jet’s radar ‘fingerprint’, in effect creating a ‘ghost’ signal for the incoming missile to follow.

The technology was designed by Leonardo’s electronic warfare experts in the company's Luton office in the UK and is manufactured on-site.

BriteCloud is currently available in two formats, a 55mm round format and a smaller, square format called ‘Britecloud 218’. The 55mm round is compatible not only with the Tornado aircraft but also with others including the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Saab Gripen. Because of its design, BriteCloud can be procured and immediately fielded by users of these aircraft and integrated the same way as a chaff or flare round.

BriteCloud 218, which tested successfully following development work in 2017, is compatible with aircraft such as the F-15 and F-16. Leonardo has trialled the BriteCloud 218 format on a Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) F-16. The decoy fits directly into the standard flare dispenser with no modifications required.

Leonardo has worked with the UK MOD since 2012 to develop active expendable decoy technology, with the concept originating through a project commissioned by the UK’s DSTL and jointly managed by Leonardo and the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation. Leonardo has subsequently invested significantly at Luton to further develop and manufacture BriteCloud formats. In May 2017, Leonardo signed up to become the first partner of the RAF’s Rapid Capabilities Office, with its first task being to clear BriteCloud for operational service.

With the decoy now successfully deployed with the Royal Air Force, Leonardo is already looking forward to Britecloud’s future development. For this; Leonardo needs talented Engineers to join their team.

You can find out more about Leonardo and the BriteCloud career opportunities and check out some of the current vacancies on E&T Jobs here.

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