The UK Ministry of Defense announced the cancelation of Project Mosquito, a program to develop an advanced combat drone.
“Through Project Mosquito and other experimentation activities the Royal Air Force has made substantial progress and gained significant value in understanding and harnessing a range of future uncrewed capabilities. This decision maximises the learning accrued to date and enables a change of direction for the LANCA programme,” Jez Holmes, the Head of the Rapid Capabilities Office, is quoted as saying in the MoD press release.
The cancelation will not impact the intent to eventually build a Loyal Wingman drone for the Royal Air Force (RAF), the release states. However, now the focus lies on the post-2035 capability space.
In January 2021 Spirit Aero Systems was selected to build a prototype of the Mosquito, which was intended to fly in 2023, and enter into service by the end of the decade.
The press release explains that the decision to discontinue the program was taken following a detailed review of the technical demonstrator, as well as the broader Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (LANCA) program, under which Project Mosquito was being developed.
No further explanation has been given, although the release hints that smaller and less costly programs were now a priority for the MoD:
“The accumulation of analysis concluded that more beneficial capability and cost-effectiveness appears achievable through exploration of smaller, less costly, but still highly capable additive capabilities,” the release concludes.
Mosquito was intended to follow the Loyal Wingman template, being a cheap yet highly capable combat drone designed to operate in a team of manned and unmanned aircraft.
Numerous other countries, including the US, Australia, India and Russia, are currently pursuing their own Loyal Wingman developments. In addition, manned-unmanned teaming is at the core of the sixth-generation fighter jet concept, with such projects as the US’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) and Future Combat Air System (FCAS) reportedly being developed as a system that consists of a manned fighter jet and a number of accompanying drones.