Airbus Debuts Innovative Unmanned Wingman Drone at ILA Exhibition

Image provided by official Airbus statement
Image provided by official Airbus statement

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Airbus announced it will unveil “the Wingman concept” at the International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) in Berlin. This latest innovation introduces a new era of unmanned support aircraft that is designed to enhance mission success and aircraft capabilities.

In regular manned military aviation, the wingman is a pilot in another aircraft that provides protection and support to the lead pilot. The new Wingman concept by Airbus builds on this idea and introduces a fighter-type drone that operates under the command of a pilot in a manned combat aircraft. This unmanned aircraft could then perform high-risk mission tasks that could pose a threat to manned-only aircraft.

According to Interesting Engineering, the Wingman’s tasks will range from reconnaissance to engaging ground or airborne targets with precision-guided munitions or missiles, all under the control of pilots in manned aircraft acting as “command fighters.” Importantly, these pilots will always have the authority to call the final decision.

Another key focus of the Wingman concept is to affordably increase combat mass and enable air forces to match opposing forces in conflicts. This innovation marks a significant step forward in military aviation, promising enhanced mission capabilities and increased operational effectiveness for future combat scenarios.

Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, said in an official statement: “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. 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 maximize the effects and multiply the power of its fighter fleet for the 2030s.”

The life-sized model of the Wingman will be showcased at ILA and demonstrate the envisioned capabilities, which include low observability, integration of armaments, advanced sensors, connectivity, and teaming solutions. However, not all features displayed may make it to production.

This upcoming unveiling of Airbus’s Wingman concept emphasizes the evolving landscape of aerospace technology, bringing with it a new era of unmanned support aircraft that will surely revolutionize military operations.