European AI and software company Helsing is to collaborate with Airbus on the latter’s future Wingman system, an unpiloted aircraft to operate alongside current combat jets, which the German Air Force has already expressed interest in.

Under the AI agreement, Airbus will “provide its expertise in the interaction of unmanned and manned military aircraft, so-called Manned-Unmanned Teaming” explains the manufacturer. Additionally, “Helsing will contribute its AI stack of relevant software-defined mission capabilities, including the fusion of various sensors and algorithms for electronic warfare”.

Recognising that the “most dangerous part of an unmanned mission will see a high degree of autonomy and thus require AI,” co-CEO at Helsing Gundbert Scherf explained that “from the processing of data from sensors over the optimization of sub-systems to closing the loop on system-level: software-defined capabilities and AI will be a critical component of the Wingman system for the German Air Force”.

“With an unmanned Wingman at their side, fighter pilots can operate outside the danger zone,” clarified Mike Schoelhorn, CEO at Airbus Defence and Space. “They give the orders and always have the decision-making authority. Supported by AI, the wingman then takes over the dangerous tasks, including target reconnaissance and destruction or electronic jamming or deception of enemy air defence systems”.

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