Go to section

ILA 2024: Unmanned Loyal Wingman from Airbus

During the upcoming ILA Berlin Air Show, the European company Airbus Defence and Space will present the concept of an unmanned loyal wingman, simply called Wingman.


On Monday, June 3, 2024, the European company Airbus Defence and Space (part of the Airbus group) announced that during the upcoming ILA Berlin Air Show (June 5-9), it will present the concept of an unmanned loyal wingman, simply called Wingman.

Image: Airbus Defence and Space

In the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany, a full-scale 1:1 model will be presented, representing the concept of an unmanned combat aircraft designed to support the manned Eurofighter Typhoon during high-risk missions. It is worth noting that the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) had previously expressed interest in such an unmanned loyal wingman for the newly developed Eurofighter Typhoon EK electronic warfare variant.

Wingman is also presented as a more short-term project that will precede the larger plans related to the 6th generation multirole aircraft program, FCAS (Future Combat Air System), for the 2040s, which will include the development of a support drone.

The Wingman aircraft model demonstrates all the anticipated operational requirements, such as a reduced radar cross-section (RCS), integration of various types of armaments, advanced sensors, communication systems, and solutions for the concept of manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) of aerial vehicles. As Airbus emphasizes, the presented model is merely a foundation for developing the final aircraft, should it enter serial production.

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,” said Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defence and Space. “Our Wingman concept is the answer. We will further drive and fine-tune this innovation made in Germany so that ultimately we can 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 tasks of the Wingman may include reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and destroying targets on the ground or in the air using precision munitions or missiles. Pilots of manned aircraft serving as “command planes” will always have control over the drone. They will always be the ultimate decision-making authority (man-in-the-loop concept), while leveraging the advantage of protection and reduced exposure to risk by delegating tactical tasks to unmanned systems. Additional emphasis has been placed on increasing the overall combat mass in an affordable manner, allowing air forces to match the numbers of enemy forces.


The presented aircraft features a tailless airframe in a canard configuration (indicating high maneuverability), with a single air intake designed according to the requirements for supersonic efficiency (Diverterless Supersonic Inlet, DSI), leading to a turbofan engine with a flat nozzle – indicating the aircraft’s designed supersonic speed.

A blended wing body with a triangular outline and a flat, streamlined fuselage has also been used, which is intended to contribute to the announced stealth characteristics. The camouflage shown in the illustration also indicates the use of radar-absorbing materials. An electro-optical infrared sensor can be seen on the nose of the aircraft, along with other elements on the fuselage such as antennas and sensors, as well as likely an adapter for a rigid boom in-flight refueling system.

The graphic does not in any way show how the armament will be carried: whether it will be underwing or underfuselage hardpoints (which would, however, disrupt the low radar cross-section and maneuverability) or maybe one or more internal weapon bays.

It is worth noting that on November 5, 2019, Airbus presented a demonstrator for a combat unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with reduced detectability, the LOUT (Low Observable UAV Testbed). Recently, the Heavy-RC model was also showcased. As can be seen, various concepts of a loyal wingman are being explored by Airbus.


According to information revealed during ILA 2024, Wingman is 15.54 meters long (50.96 feet), with a wingspan of 12 meters (39.37 feet) and a height of 2.53 meters (8.3 feet). The wing area is 61.22 square meters (659 square feet).


Nobody has commented on this article yet.

Leave a Reply