The Expendable Remote Carriers (ERC) are compact unmanned collaborative combat aircrafts, which are being developed with the goal of enabling the next generation air-combat systems to fully operate in highly contested environment. The ERC can be the eyes of the NGWS (Next Generation Weapon System) in highly contested areas and deliver a wide variety of effects. This makes them an essential asset in the gain of the air superiority and the mission’s overall success. They will operate alongside manned or unmanned assets, including weapons to support them in the core of their missions and/or protect them. Highly collaborative while being able of autonomy in the most highly denied environment, the ERC will guarantee the right level of human control to comply with the appropriate rules of engagement. With other unmanned assets being ERC or weapons, they will constitute smart, autonomous and collaborative ‘packs’ in which each asset can take its part of the mission and allow the whole to adapt immediately to the tactical environment. This collaborative approach will be key to achieving and maintaining air superiority in highly contested environments. MBDA, leader of the kinetic effects among the NGWS partners, is maturing a new panel of non-lethal effects to fulfil the operational needs: detect the enemy, identify, trigger the desired reactions, saturate and disturb, deceive and finally neutralise the enemy.
By design, ERC are compact to be integrated on-board air combat platforms, while being capable of being operated from naval and ground-based platforms.
Expendable Remote Carriers operational advantages
• A key enabler for collaborative air combat, providing support for: reconnaissance, electronic warfare, meta sensors, intelligence, target detection/designation, air-to-air combat
• Be an integrated and connected asset within a system of systems
• Offer combat mass
• A key role across the entire spectrum of missions: air superiority, air tactical strike missions, deep strike operations or air-sea combat
Expendable Remote Carriers in NGWS – The role of MBDA
Developing a full-scale airborne ERC demonstrator
The Expandable Remote Carriers (ERC) are structuring assets of the FCAS/NGWS (Future Combat air System/Next Generation Weapon System) architecture as well as for the Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP). A significant effort, involving industrial partners across France Germany and Spain, is being deployed in the current NGWS programme to develop the ERC, in consistency with the other NGWS assets (eg. Next Generation Fighter). The NGWS activities are focusing on the maturation of the technologies that will be key to developing the ERC in the future. Those maturation activities are supported by the development of an ERC Demonstrator (ERC-D) that will be flown in the Phase 2 of the programme. MBDA is leading the definition and development of the NGWS ERC-D demonstrator. The ERC-D is combining advanced airframe technologies for a unique flight domain, close to the one of manned fighters in subsonic operations, extreme modularity to integrate future communications and sensors demonstrators and a ‘brain’ capable of operating advanced collaborative capabilities.
Leading the operational ERC concepts development and selection
In parallel with the ERC demonstrator development, the relevant operational ERC concepts are being explored, assessed and selected as part of the NGWS joint concept studies. These activities are performed in cooperation and in consistency with the other NGWS pillars (ie. the Next Generation Fighter, the Combat Cloud and the sensors). The ERC operational capabilities studies are conducted in the frame of a dedicated FR/DE/ES ERC forum coordinated by MBDA.
Collaborative combat effectors will form an essential part of future weapons systems to defeat evermore complex threats. Building on its renowned experience in delivering cutting-edge missiles systems, MBDA presents Orchestrike a unique set of advanced innovations that will turn collaborative combat effectors into reality. From digital engineering to system integration, MBDA’s excellence stands by your side in delivering a new force multiplier. The SMART family, which includes SMARTCRUISER and SMARTGLIDER, will feature Orchestrike force multiplier capabilities enabling swarming attacks in complex environment.
The SMART family
Intended primarily for various air platforms, primarily for the Rafale aircraft, the SMARTCRUISER is a compact effector that can be carried in numbers, either from its innovative Hexalauncher or from a bay. Connected through datalink, motorized and embedding Orchestrike technologies, the SMARTCRUISER will enable swarm attack to perform precision air-to-ground strikes at stand-off distance against ground and naval targets heavily protected by air defence. The SMARTCRUISER is ideally suited for the suppression and/or destruction of enemy air defences (SEAD/ DEAD) mission in even more evolved threat environments. The SMARTGLIDER offers the same compactness than the SMARTCRUISER and can similarly be fitted in numbers under the aircraft. It however features a heavier warhead for more hardened targets, hence providing the ideal combination with the SMARTCRUISER.
How important is your partnership with the UAE?
The Missile Engineering Center was officially inaugurated on June 6, 2023.
The aim of the Missile Engineering Center is to strengthen the long-term partnership between the UAE and MBDA and to establish a bedrock for joint development of missile systems.
This cooperation has the ultimate objective of offering missile systems at the right level of performance while leveraging and reinforcing the sovereign capabilities of the UAE defense industry through significant local content.
The Missile Engineering Center in the UAE is the first of its kind for MBDA outside Europe; it is operational with a joint team of engineers from Tawazun Technology Innovation and MBDA working on the next generation of the Smart Weapons family.
Eric Béranger, Chief Executive Officer of MBDA, said: “This inauguration is a major landmark for us at MBDA and an illustration of the importance of our local presence and cooperation with our partner Tawazun Council. MBDA and its teams are extremely proud to see the new Missile Engineering Center operational and already working on the development of the next generation of smart weapons. This unique cooperation is the very symbol of what we aim to achieve with our partner Tawazun Council in the UAE, projecting ourselves in the long term to make our collaboration a win-win and a symbol of our involvement in the region”.
Resounding Success: The Inauguration of the Missile Engineering Center and Plans for Future Expansion
– Extremely positive, after the successful implementation of the initial pre-development stage, plans are already in place to make future expansions.