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Airbus enters race for unmanned Wingman support fighters

4th June 2024 - 13:54 GMT | by The Shephard News Team in London


Airbus has thrown its hat into the uncrewed escort aircraft ring with Wingman. (Image: Airbus)

Designs for unmanned support aircraft for fighter jets are advanced with Boeing’s MQ-28A Ghost Bat beginning development in 2013 and making its first flight in February 2021 and Airbus’s effort will need to advance quickly to keep up.

Airbus is to display a full-size concept of its Wingman uncrewed escort aircraft at the ILA Berlin Air Show with a design which incorporates low observability, the integration of various armaments, advanced sensors, connectivity and teaming solutions.

Like other Wingman aircraft, such as the Boeing MQ-28A Ghost Bat which was previously called Loyal Wingman, it would be commanded by a pilot in a conventional combat aircraft such as the Eurofighter or F-35 to take on high-risk mission tasks and keep crewed aircraft safer.

Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, said that he could see Wingman entering service over the next decade.

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“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,” Schoellhorn said.

Our Wingman concept [will] offer the German Air Force an affordable solution with the performance it needs to maximise the effects and multiply the power of its fighter fleet for the 2030s.”

The company’s said it hopes of getting the Wingman flying in less than a decade was challenging but it was something achieved by Boeing with its MQ-28A Ghost Bat, which turned the aircraft around from the unveiling of a full-size model in 2019 to first flight in 2021.

Additionally there have been other runners in the development of Wingman systems, as noted by Shephard Defence Insight, such as Saab Aerospace and a consortium led by BAE Systems, as well as countries like South Korea, Russia and Japan.

The Shephard News Team


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