Airbus has unveiled its new ‘wingman’ concept, an autonomous platform intended to “augment the capabilities of current manned combat aircraft,” with Germany a potential customer for the advanced technological solution.

“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,” explained Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. He added that the wingman concept could be further developed and fine-tuned in Germany to “offer the German Air Force and affordable solution with the performance it needs to maximise the effects and multiply the power of its fighter fleet for the 2030s”.

Working alongside piloted platforms such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, the wingman “can take on high-risk mission tasks that would pose a bigger threat to manned-only aircraft”. Pilots in manned aircraft acting as ‘command fighters’ will retain final decision-making authority, “while benefiting from the protection and smaller risk exposure that the delegation of tactical taskings to unmanned systems offers,” concludes Airbus.

The concept, displayed at the International Aerospace Exhibition ILA, will “serve as a foundation and catalyst to drive the design requirements for each generation of the wingman” adds Airbus, which states that not all elements of its concept model will necessarily progress to series production.
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