BRITAIN is pioneering new mini-helicopter drones dubbed "The Jackal" which can fire missiles at targets four miles away.
The RAF ordered new "lightweight drones" after noting the success of such warfare in Ukraine's resistance against Russia's invasion – and has been impressed by the success of UK trials.
The new British-produced drones have shown their ability to drop grenades on tanks while hovering above.
The eight-rotor "JACKAL" drone can now launch 35lb missiles and hit targets within a range of up to four miles.
Flyby Technology in York developed the drone while the missiles come from Thales in Northern Ireland capital Belfast – with the thumbs-up coming from the RAF's Rapid Capabilities Office.
Video footage released by Thales showed an aircraft taking off vertically while tethered to the ground – before revealing the drone launching at a nearby test target.
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Flyby founder and chief executive Jon Parker, a former RAF pilot himself, said: "We can sit in tops of trees and shoot from a distance without being detected.
"The beauty of the aircraft is it is as quick as a manned helicopter in flight.
"We can shoot in the hover position or on the move. So we can chase a target and fire at the same time.
"The days of having a fighter pilot in the cockpit are numbered. Warfare is changing and Jackal is part of that future."
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And he joked: "The days of having a fighter pilot in the cockpit are numbered and I realise I will not perhaps be loved for bringing about the end of my own kind.
“But the future of warfare is changing and JACKAL is part of that future as a true multi-role attack aircraft.
"We want to make JACKAL a flagship product, creating secure UK jobs and contributing to a new future for the British aerospace and defence industries.”
Thales missiles expert James Keown told the Times: "The missile is designed to create very low recoil force on the launch platform, so you don't have those instabilities.
"The Jackal is a very stable platform, it hovers superbly, and the purpose of our exercise was to show that."
The two firms produced the Jackal drones in a swift six-week turnaround.
Thales managing director Philip McBride said: 'It has been a privilege to work with the Flyby team on this time-compressed and groundbreaking trial, and has proved that both Thales and Flyby can produce impressive and agile results when focused on a collective, shared objective."
The Jackal – whose Martlet missiles should be able to reach speeds of up to 1,100mph – is believed to be the first drone of its kind to pass RAF trials.
The Sun previously revealed how RAF drones have killed almost 1,500 Islamic State fighters in the past eight years.
The force’s MQ-9 Reaper aircraft have flown hundreds of missions over Iraq and Syria since 1014, piloted by crews based at RAF Waddington in Lincs.
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High-profile targets wiped out by drones include the Brit Mohammed Emwazi – nicknamed "Johadi John" – in 2015.
He had been involved in beheading hostages, as part of a group dubbed "The Beatles" due to their British backgrounds.
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