As part of a major £1.5 billion investment in military research and development, the U.K. government has signed a £30 million design and manufacture contract with the Belfast arm of Sprint AeroSystems for an unmanned fighter drone. In 2020 the U.S. group acquired the former business in Northern Ireland from Bombardier. The deal is to include a full-scale vehicle flight-test program by 2023.
According to the British government, the drones will be manufactured to act as a “loyal wingman” to the RAF’s Typhoon jets, capable of shooting down enemy aircraft. The program will also include the U.K. unit of Northrop Grumman, an American global aerospace and defense technology company, and if the initial phase of the project is successful, it is anticipated that the drones will be deployed alongside fighter jets by the end of the decade. (£1.00 = US$1.37 at time of publication.)