A range of combat drones will be required to accompany the Rafale F5, according to simulations

The American think tank Mitchell Institute has carried out several simulations highlighting the added value that an extended range of combat drones brings in modern collaborative combat, in particular to confront a symmetrical adversary with powerful denial systems. access, as is the case with China.

The think tank's conclusions shed interesting light on the program Rafale F5, which is based on a single heavy combat drone of the Loyal Wingmen type, and not a range of complementary drones, like the one that showed the best results during simulations in the Taiwanese theater.

Serial announcements of Loyal Wingmen combat drone programs in the West

The announcement, by the Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu, of the development of a combat drone derived from the Neuron, to support the Rafale F5, from the start of the next decade, constituted one of the highlights of the 2024-2030 Military Programming Law.

This heavy, but stealthy drone, which will fulfill the role of Loyal Wingman for the Rafale, will give the air forces equipped with it advanced capabilities in suppressing enemy defenses, filling one of the rare shortcomings of the Dassault Aviation aircraft.

Rafale and Neuron
Le Rafale F5 will have to be accompanied by different combat drones, to be fully effective, according to the conclusions of the Mitchell Institute simulations

However, France was not the only one to embark on such a trajectory. Germany, Great Britain and especially the United States have also undertaken similar programs, whether to increase the performance of Typhoon and F-35, or to accompany future combat aircraft from the GCAP and NGAD programs.

It is precisely to assess the role that these drones could play, in the event of a major conflict, that the American think tank Mitchell Institute, carried out several simulations on the Taiwanese scenario.

According to the published conclusions, if drones can indeed play a decisive role in containing Chinese numerical superiority and denial of access, it is however essential, to achieve this, to have a wide range of drones with complementary capabilities. .

Lessons from American simulations around Taiwan

The American simulations were based on a particularly wide range of drones, ranging from heavy stealth combat drones, costing more than $40 million per unit, with significant potential, and cannot be sacrificed, to drones costing only one or two million dollars, used to saturate the defenses, and could easily be lost.

The various simulations have shown that the optimal effect, faced with the significant resources held by the People's Liberation Army, is achieved when the number of inexpensive, therefore expendable, drones is very high, while high-performance drones operate at identical, or almost, to piloted combat aircraft.

range of American combat drones XQ-58A
Kratos' XQ-58A is one of the expendable combat drones tested by the US Air Force

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