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Airbus Unveils Wingman Concept for Unmanned Fighter Support

Our Bureau - : Jun 5, 2024 - : 2:26 am

Airbus is set to showcase its Wingman concept at the International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) in Berlin. In military aviation, while the term traditionally refers to a pilot in another aircraft who provides protection, tactical options, and support to the flight lead, the Airbus concept is a fighter-type drone commanded by a pilot in a current combat aircraft. This drone can handle high-risk mission tasks that would pose a significant threat to manned-only aircraft.

“The German Air Force has expressed a clear need for an unmanned aircraft flying with and supporting missions of its manned fighter jets before the Future Combat Air System will be operational in 2040,” said Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space.

“Our Wingman concept is the answer. We will further drive and fine-tune this innovation made in Germany so that ultimately we can offer the German Air Force an affordable solution with the performance it needs to maximise the effects and multiply the power of its fighter fleet for the 2030s,” he added.

The 1:1 model of the Wingman, on display at ILA from June 5 to 9, showcases various features, including low observability, integration of armaments, advanced sensors, connectivity, and teaming solutions. While not all of them may make it into series production, this model serves as a foundation for designing future generations of the drone.

The Wingman’s tasks span reconnaissance, target jamming, and engaging ground or aerial targets using precision-guided munitions or missiles. Manned aircraft pilots, acting as “command fighters,” retain control of missions while benefiting from reduced risk exposure through tactical delegation to unmanned systems. Additionally, the focus is on cost-effective combat mass enhancement, allowing air forces to match opposing forces in conflicts with peers or near-peers.


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