Airbus Unveils Stealthy “Wingman” Concept at ILA Berlin

Airbus has unveiled its latest innovation, the “Wingman” concept, at the International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) in Berlin. The European aerospace giant presented a full-scale model of the unmanned aircraft, which is designed to be controlled by pilots in Eurofighters and other combat aircraft.

Revolutionizing Air Combat: Introducing the Wingman

Unlike the traditional “Loyal Wingman” terminology, Airbus has opted to refer to this new model simply as the “Wingman.” This concept aims to showcase advanced capabilities, including stealth, various armament integrations, advanced sensors, connectivity, and teaming solutions. The features displayed may not all be present in the final production model.

An image released ahead of the exhibition depicts the stealthy design of the Wingman, which features smooth, angular lines and flat surfaces to minimize radar cross-section (RCS). The aircraft’s sleek design includes small canard wings near the front and a “cranked kite” wing configuration, enhancing maneuverability and control. The seamless integration of the body and wings, likely recessed engine inlets, and minimal openings further suggest a focus on stealth and aerodynamic efficiency.

A Strategic Answer to High-Risk Missions

Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, emphasized the strategic importance of the Wingman concept: “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 becomes operational in 2040. Our Wingman concept is the answer. We will further refine this innovation made in Germany to 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.”

Michael Schoellhorn has been Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Airbus Defence and Space since 1 July 2021. Source: Airbus

The Wingman is designed to undertake high-risk missions, providing reconnaissance, jamming targets, and engaging ground or air targets with precision-guided munitions or missiles. Pilots in manned aircraft will act as “command fighters,” maintaining control and making final decisions while benefiting from the protection and reduction in risk offered by unmanned systems. This approach aims to increase combat mass affordably, enabling air forces to match or exceed the capabilities of adversary forces in peer or near-peer conflicts.

Future iterations of the Wingman, informed by feedback and further development, will aim to enhance the capabilities of manned combat aircraft by integrating these uncrewed platforms. The unveiling at ILA Berlin marks a significant step in refining the design requirements and operational concepts for this next-generation unmanned aircraft.

Alexander Mitchell
Alexander Mitchell
Pilot on the B-767, international and overwater operations. Accomplished SIGINT/LLVI operator with five years of diverse experience in strategic and tactical operations. Adept in handling confidential information and situations with discretion. Respected leader, providing purpose, motivation, and direction focused on achieving and exceeding company goals.

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