The ability to control unmanned systems from a manned aircraft is an important “force multiplier” in Airbus’ vision for future air power say the company.

This has been confirmed in a dynamic and interactive way during manned-unmanned teaming (MUT) test flight campaigns successfully performed by the company.

These campaigns included demonstrations with five Airbus-built Do-DT25 target drones controlled from a mission group commander who was airborne in a manned command and control (C2) aircraft.

According to the company in a release:

“A key element contributing to these successful flights was the advanced flight control and flight management system developed by Airbus for unmanned air vehicles – which combines fully automatic guidance, navigation and control with intelligent swarming capabilities.

Manned-unmanned-teaming is expected to increase the mission efficiency of future airborne systems in many ways. Equipped with sensors, the swarm of unmanned systems can provide situational awareness to a mission group commander located a safe distance away aboard the manned aircraft.

The Airbus MUT demonstrations brought together several of the company’s programme and product lines, with the main development and test phases conducted during a short timeframe and at low cost – supported by an agile, rapid prototyping environment and a risk-mitigation approach. Expertise gained during the manned-unmanned teaming test flight campaigns will be applied by Airbus to develop Europe’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS).”

The tests were flown in a test zone of Germany’s Baltic Sea area, the MUT trial flights served multiple purposes, including validating such elements as connectivity, human-machine interface, and the concept of teaming intelligence through mission group management.

For the aspect of teaming intelligence, multiple capabilities and enabling technologies are required at sufficient maturity levels – from teaming/swarming algorithms and new sensors to mission management systems for command and control assistance by the manned aircraft’s crew.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Just for the info, the AH64E (which the Uk is upgrading its AH64D fleet to) already has this capability. A capability which has already been put to use in Afghan and Iraq.

  2. Don’t fully understand why this would be thought to be a good idea for frontline aircraft? I would have thought the crews were quite busy enough without having to manage drones as well – isn’t this a job that might be better done by people away from the frontline who could then feed info to the aircraft if needed?

  3. If Airbus are years behind then so are the USAF and the RAF! Both have requirements for Unmanned swarming drones/ loyal wingmen to penetrate contested airspace, passing information to manned combat aircraft ( just google USAF LCAAT and also RAF LANCA Royal Aero Society) which is exactly what Airbus appears to have successfully demonstrated. 5 unmanned drones all interacting with each other and a manned combat aircraft sounds a little more impressive than one BAC111 !

  4. At the min it is a case of capability looking for a need. We will see if this turns out to be anything other than a science project. In my mind drones are there for when you don’t want to risk pilots and also there has been a big pusb away from dual seater fighters (where you have someone with the time to control them)) and so this is a no go currently.

    Is it me or does that photo make it look like a v1 missile from ww2?

  5. If Airbus are years behind then so are the USAF and RAF! Both have requirements for Manned Unmanned Teaming “Loyal Wingmen” / swarming drones to penetrate contested airspace working with manned combat aircraft (search for USAF LCAAT and also RAF LANCA on the Internet). That’s exactly what Airbus seems to have successfully demonstrated. I would also offer that autonomous / coordinated flying of 5 drones exchanging information with a manned combat aircraft is a lot more challenging than the single BAC 111 example. The benefit of this type of capability is the low cost and the attritable qualities i.e. you can afford to lose some in heavily contested airspace.

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