In a remarkable achievement described as a “world first,” BAE Systems and Malloy Aeronautics successfully deployed a T-600 heavy lift Uncrewed Air System (UAS) to launch an inert Sting Ray training torpedo during a recent NATO exercise in the waters off the coast of Portugal. This groundbreaking event has garnered significant attention from military forces worldwide.

A Remarkable Feat

While this achievement is hailed as a “world first,” it’s worth noting that torpedo-carrying unmanned aerial vehicles have existed in the past, with the Gyrodyne DSN-3 “Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter” (DASH) being a notable example. Nonetheless, the T-600’s test flight marked a significant milestone within NATO’s Robotic Experimentation and Prototyping with Maritime Uncrewed Systems (REPMUS) 2023 exercise, featuring fifteen NATO partners and representatives from Ireland and Sweden.

A Leap in Collaborative Innovation

Neil Appleton, Head of Sustainable Electric Products at BAE Systems Air, expressed pride in the collaborative achievement, stating, “In just two years since we launched our collaboration with Malloy, we’ve developed a heavy lift UAS and, working with the UK Royal Navy and Portuguese Navy, have taken part in the latest NATO REPMUS exercise.” The T-600, while resembling a quadcopter drone for filming at first glance, stands as large as a compact car. This electric-powered aircraft, designed primarily for demonstration purposes, boasts impressive specifications: a payload capacity of 441 pounds (200 kg), a top speed of 87 mph (140 kph), and a range of up to 50 miles (80 km).

Deploying the Sting Ray Torpedo

During the exercise, a training variant of the “Sting Ray” anti-submarine torpedo was successfully deployed, marking the inaugural deployment of such a weapon via drone during a sea mission. This demonstration showcased not only the T-600’s anti-submarine warfare capabilities but also its potential for tasks like automated logistics, resupply missions, casualty evacuation, and more. Dave Quick, Head of Underwater Weapons at BAE Systems Maritime Services, highlighted their ongoing efforts, saying, “Our development of Sting Ray Mod 2 is focused not only on weapon effectiveness but also on increasing deployment methods, including drones, to explore the operational benefits in Anti-Submarine Warfare and Anti-Torpedo defense.”

Future Prospects with T-650

BAE Systems intends to build upon the success of the T-600 by developing the T-650, a heavy-lift UAS entirely powered by electricity. This versatile platform can be swiftly adapted to cater to military, commercial, and humanitarian needs. As Quick noted, “Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) can be quick to launch and easy to carry, offering the potential to keep higher-cost assets and crew out of harm’s way. UAS-launched Sting Ray torpedoes could enhance operational flexibility across various naval platforms, bolstering the utility of ‘Sting Ray.'”

A Testament to Rapid Innovation

Oriol Badia, CEO of Malloy Aeronautics, emphasized the commitment to converting concept ideas into tangible capabilities swiftly. He highlighted that the collaborative success achieved in the REPMUS exercise has opened doors to a wide range of promising applications for the T-600 platform, including last-mile resupply and casualty evacuation, all at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.

By Impact Lab