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The Canadian navy is planning to load electronic jamming equipment into remote control surface drones that could be used to protect Canadian frigates from anti-ship missiles. The gear would “provide jamming capability against anti-ship missile threats,” say relevant documents, which also stated the equipment could be used for radar testing and training.
The electronic warfare payload must include “real-time, trainable and stabilized video surveillance capability,” and be able to identify designated threats, say the documents, quoted on localxpress.ca.
“There’s a lot of experimentation going on at the defence research facility with unmanned vehicles, and it sounds like they’re really branching out,” said Ken Hansen, a retired naval commander who now works as a military analyst.
The equipment could emit radio signals to try to either jam or overload an incoming missile’s capacity to home in on a warship, Hansen said.
They could also be used as decoys and “drag them away to a false target,” he said.
“Usually, the false target was a smaller ship pretending to be a bigger ship. In this case, you could emit signals from these drones or decoys that would take the missile completely away from the formation of ships”. The drones would be controlled by radio signals from a warship, said Hansen.
The Humpback drones, which look like small motorboats, are expendable, Hansen said.
“But also their survivability will probably be really good,” he said. “Let’s assume for a minute there’s a missile coming in. You get it to lock on the decoy, and the missile turns off and goes after it. Chances are it’s not going to hit it because missile systems look for what’s called the centre of the mass. They’ll have a targeting system that will be scanning for a target and it will look and look and look and look. But it will have a threshold. It will have a certain mass that it needs to see if it’s a radar-homing weapon and it won’t see it. It will just fly right by the decoy. It’s all experimental stuff,” he said.
“The Americans, are the leaders in this. But this is a big, big field in the realm of defence, armaments, weaponry and operating.”
The Humpback drones , built by a company now known as QinetiQ Target Systems, are based on Hammerhead drones, originally designed to simulate fast attacks on warships. The electronic warfare equipment for the Humpbacks that Canada intends to buy is meant purely for defensive applications, Hansen said. “Although it wouldn’t take much to put a warhead on an unmanned vehicle. We really have that stuff already in cruise missiles.”