Airbus has unveiled its previously undisclosed Low Observable UAV Testbed (LOUT) programme.

It is understood that the programme recently completed the ‘iterative camouflage optimisation’ phase, prompting Airbus and the German defence ministry to provide some details about the programme.

It has been reported that the non-flying testbed was shown to media in carefully controlled conditions while it was mounted on a pole in a radar cross-section measurement chamber at an Airbus plant in southern Germany.

According to Airbus, the program took a “holistic approach” to stealth, simultaneously focusing on three aspects: reducing radar, IR, visual and acoustic signature, controlling electromagnetic emission of sensors and using electronic countermeasures for jamming and deception.

Image via Airbus.

Initial studies by Airbus started in 2007. In 2010, the manufacturer received a contract from the German Ministry of Defense for a very low observable (VLO) ground testbed to experiment on reducing radar, infrared and sound emissions.

It is understood that LOUT served to test stealth technologies that could later be used on the Next Generation Fighter, part of the Future Air Combat System (FCAS) programme jointly being developed by Airbus and Dassault.

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Steve Martin

I don’t pretend to be an expert but isn’t this something the UK will have gleaned from involvement as a tier 1 F-35 partner, if not before? I keep trying to guess which system is further ahead Tempest or the European FCAS?

Daniele Mandelli

Before. The BAE Special Projects Site at Warton has been doing this sort of thing for decades in conjunction with the US as aerospace tech forms one part of the close relationship between our two countries. I believe it was a concern for the US on how much to share with the UK, as inevitably, the UK is tied in with Europe, and some sensitive technologies would be available to them. Having said that, I read that much of the stealth tech came from Europe in the first place, and I believe the Germans had their own Stealth program called… Read more »


Yes and no, Germany has been in the low observable business since the late 70’s. MBB (now DASA) were contracted by the then West German Government to investigate how to make a fighter that didn’t need to dogfight. They came up with the Lampridae (fireflies). This concept was developed separately from Lockheed Martin Have Blue program. By using mathematical models they derived that by using angular plates as a fuselage, removing all curves and ensuring there were no 90 degree joins, the aircraft’s radar cross section (RCS) could be significantly reduced. They eventually developed one of the first computer models… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

A comprehensive reply as always Davey.

Thank you.


Forgot to mention the Salisbury screen was actually invented by an American, but they didn’t see a use for it. It was the UK that first used it. The first time it was properly used, was on some of D class motor gunboats that took part in the Bruneval raid (Operation Biting). These were patrolling just off the coast ready to pick up the raiding parties. They had the Salisbury screens fitted so that they could operate close to shore. They also had a number of other modification such as better baffles for the exhausts and rudimentary composite armour fitted… Read more »

Andy P

Thanks for your explanation DaveyB, some insightful stuff and as I have a bit of a fascination with MTB/MGB’s I found that bit particularly interesting. Cheers.


Those rumors that the US applied pressure to halt the West German stealth efforts are total hogwash. Have Blue was terminated in late 1977 and Senior Trend, its successor program, was initiated with demonstrator aircraft significantly different from those developed during Have Blue. The first production aircraft was delivered in mid 1982.

Have Blue and Senior Trend were both compartmented weapons development programs whose classification precluded any contact, formal or informal, with any foreign power, including NATO allies.


I agree on the Have Blue and Tacit Blue as well as the Senior Trend. But all the programs used the same technology to lower the aircraft’s RCS. At two separate times and locations, they both derived that the best method of lowering RCS with the technology at the time was by using faceting. The Tacit Blue program combined faceting and blending to create an aircraft that could barely fly, suffered flame outs at high angles of attack but was used to help Northrop develop the B2. The Lampridae had a lower RCS then the F117, which was proved using… Read more »


Interesting, pure speculation of course but it would not be the first time that projects were closed down soon after visits from US experts. The M.52 comes to mind though a new Labour Govt was the more commonly expressed and probably not unreasonable explanation but one could imagine a quid pro quo being part of it. Either way it’s technology ended up in the Bell X-1 to help like so much else contribute to making ‘America great’ first time around.


So the program was terminated. The Yanks already had their stealth aircraft developed totally in a compartmented environment. Not only that they had an operational squadron. They weren’t about to go back and redesign their aircraft. They decided to apply what they learned to the B-2 and the F-35. What the Europeans were doing was irrelevant. Why then this knee jerk reaction that the Yanks must have had something to do with it. Maybe they realized just how much this was going to cost and decided not to pursue it. Just because a branch falls off of a tree in… Read more »


The first thing that came to my mind was the A-12 Avenger (aka the Flying Dorito). The shape is very reminiscent of that project.

Daniele Mandelli

Or the TR3A, which I believe exists.


I have a low observable dog – if I also turn the lights out…..

John Hampson

Looks very similar to the US A-12 Avenger that was cancelled in the early 90’s.