Airbus to Present Wingman Concept for Sixth-Gen Fighter at ILA Berlin 2024

Germany has expressed a need for unmanned aircraft to support missions of manned fighters until the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) becomes operational in 2040.
  • Defensemirror.com bureau
  • 06:49 AM, June 4, 2024
  • 1372
Airbus to Present Wingman Concept for Sixth-Gen Fighter at ILA Berlin 2024
New stealthy loyal wingman concept unveiled by Airbus @Airbus

Airbus is set to showcase its Wingman concept at the upcoming International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) in Berlin from June 5 to 9.

The concept, designed to augment the capabilities of manned combat aircraft, involves the use of unmanned fighter-type drones commanded by pilots in existing combat aircraft like the Eurofighter.

In military aviation, a “Wingman” is a pilot in another aircraft that protects and supports the flight lead, delivering more tactical options. In the Airbus concept, the Wingman operates similarly, but it is neither a pilot nor a fighter jet. It is a fighter-type drone commanded by a pilot in a current combat aircraft such as the Eurofighter. The Wingman can take on high-risk mission tasks that would pose a bigger threat to manned-only aircraft.

The 1:1 model, which Airbus will exhibit on its static display at ILA, resembles a “show car” used by the automotive industry for design exercises. The Wingman model showcases foreseen capabilities such as low observability, integration of various armaments, advanced sensors, connectivity, and teaming solutions. Not all features displayed may find their way into series production, serving as a foundation and catalyst to drive design requirements for each generation of the Wingman.

Based on the current concept, the Wingman is intended to augment the capabilities of current manned combat aircraft with uncrewed platforms capable of carrying weapons and other effectors.

The German Air Force has expressed a need for unmanned aircraft to support missions of manned fighter jets until the Future Combat Air System becomes operational in 2040. Airbus aims to address this need with its Wingman concept, offering a solution for the 2030s.

Tasks assigned to the Wingman include reconnaissance, target engagement with precision-guided munitions or missiles, and jamming targets. Pilots in manned aircraft retain control over missions while benefiting from the protection and reduced risk exposure provided by unmanned systems. They remain the final decision-making authority, while benefiting from the protection and reduced risk exposure that delegation of tactical taskings to unmanned systems offers.

An additional focus is on increasing overall combat mass in an affordable manner so that air forces can match the number of opposing forces in peers or near-peers in conflicts.

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