UK unveils Hydra 400 UAV armed with 3 Brimstone air-to-ground missiles

At DSEI 2023, the British Army introduced a new jet-propelled drone capable of launching three Brimstone laser-guided missiles. This heavy unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), known as the Hydra 400 concept, is equipped with a propulsion system powered by six single-spool jet turbines, generating 500N (equivalent to 50 kilograms) of thrust, enabling it to achieve a maximum lift capacity of 400 kilograms.
Follow Army Recognition on Google News at this link

Army Recognition Global Defense and Security news
The British Army unveils the Hydra 400 UAV armed with three Brimstone air-to-ground missiles (Picture source: UK MoD)

The development of the Hydra 400 was prompted by observations made during Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the specific challenges encountered in that conflict. British Army Chief of the General Staff, Patrick Sanders, emphasized the need for modernization in response to the evolving battlefield. He stressed the importance of automation alongside operator expertise, citing the evolving Ukraine drone campaign, where pilot errors contributed to 40% of losses. Whether applied to cyber warfare, drone piloting, or infantry operations, the focus is on developing more capable and resilient warfighters. Sanders added that the integration of artificial intelligence into the Hydra 400 represents a step towards fully automated decision support in military operations.

The Brimstone missile, designed for ground-attack missions, was selected due to its effectiveness against armored targets in various conflict zones. The chosen design allows for the drone's transportation and assembly in under six minutes. Its compact size and portability make it adaptable for a range of military applications, including long-range combat missions and reconnaissance, as the Hydra 400 can be discretely transported in a car trunk.

While the Hydra 400 showcased its potential at the DSEI exhibition, the path to its operational deployment may face regulatory challenges. British bureaucratic processes could potentially delay the drone's authorization for launching Brimstone missiles in UK ranges by up to five years. Nevertheless, the military community remains interested in the capabilities of the Hydra 400, and if funding permits, further concept testing with dummy Brimstone missiles will be conducted in the next phase of the Army's Warfighting Experiment.

The Brimstone missile, developed by MBDA UK for military applications, serves as both an air-to-surface and surface-to-surface missile. It has been employed by various armed forces, including the Royal Air Force, Royal Saudi Air Force, and German Air Force, for precise ground attacks. It has a track record with a high success rate in neutralizing a range of targets, including static, moving, and maneuvering assets like main battle tanks and other armored vehicles.

The Brimstone missile has a weight of 50 kg (110 lb), a length of 1.8 meters (71 inches), and a diameter of 180 mm (7.1 inches). Its warhead features a tandem-shaped charge, comprising a smaller initial charge for reactive armor and a larger charge for penetrating base armor. This design renders it effective against modern tanks.

The missile is propelled by a solid-fuel rocket engine, enabling it to achieve supersonic speeds, approximately 450 meters per second (Mach 1.3). Its guidance system utilizes a 94-GHz millimetric-wave active radar homing, and the dual-mode variant can also incorporate laser guidance. This guidance system ensures accuracy, typically achieving a sub-1 meter Circular Error Probable (CEP).

One notable feature of the Brimstone missile is its "fire-and-forget" capability, allowing autonomous navigation to the designated target after receiving targeting data. It can adapt to specific mission requirements, search for targets within designated areas, and self-destruct if it fails to locate a target.

The Brimstone missile is launched from various aircraft, including the Tornado GR4, Typhoon, and Protector. Each launch system can typically accommodate three missiles on rails, enabling a single aircraft to carry multiple Brimstone missiles. Over time, the Brimstone missile has undergone several enhancements and variants, such as the dual-mode Brimstone, Brimstone 2, and Brimstone 3. These improvements have extended its range, performance, and adaptability, making it suitable for various military operations.