Wingman. Image: Airbus

Airbus to Unveil Combat Drone to Accompany Fighter Jets

European planemaker Airbus was on Wednesday to unveil a full-scale model of a fighter drone dubbed “Wingman” and designed to accompany manned combat aircraft on risky missions.

The model will be on display at the ILA Berlin Air Show, Germany’s largest aerospace show, from June 5 to 9.

“The Wingman is intended to augment the capabilities of current manned combat aircraft with uncrewed platforms that can carry weapons and other effectors,” Airbus said in a statement.

“The Wingman model showcases all of the foreseen capabilities required, such as low observability, the integration of various armaments, advanced sensors, connectivity and teaming solutions.”

Jean-Brice Dumont, head of air power at Airbus, told reporters on Tuesday that the role of drones was becoming increasingly important in modern warfare.

“The need is there,” he said.

Airbus has been in talks with Germany, and other countries such as Spain, have also shown interest.

Airbus is hoping the fighter drone will become operational in the 2030s.

“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,” Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space, was quoted as saying in the statement.

France, Germany, and Spain have been spearheading a 100-billion-euro project to build a new fighter jet dubbed FCAS.

The Wingman would be controlled by a pilot in a combat aircraft and could operate in conflict zones, taking on high-risk missions that would pose a threat to manned-man aircraft.

The drone’s tasks can range from reconnaissance to jamming targets and engaging them on the ground or in the air with precision-guided munitions or missiles, Airbus said.

Unmanned aerial vehicles have played a crucial role in Russia’s war against Ukraine as well as the recent conflict between arch-enemies Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“We can consider ourselves late,” said Dumont. “We must move on to the operational level now.”

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