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Airbus Consortium Conducts Manned-Unmanned Flight Demo for Future Combat Air System

A team led by Airbus has carried out Europe’s first large-scale multi-domain flight demonstration supporting the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program at Rovajärvi artillery practice range in Finland.

Funded by the German BAAINBw procurement agency, the test was conducted to develop a remote flying carrier that will operate alongside German Eurofighters and New Generation Fighters.

The demonstration involved manned and unmanned aircraft in realistic scenarios against a rogue adversary.

Experts from Patria, MBDA Germany, Robonic, and HAT.tec joined Airbus in operating the platforms. The German and Finnish Defence Forces also participated in the demonstration.

Manned-Unmanned Teaming

Airbus subsidiary GFD deployed a Learjet 35 surrogate fighter with a crew to control five modified Do-DT25 target drones.

Two of the Do-DT25s were equipped with MBDA-built electronic support measure sensors to identify adversary ground missile positions, while the remaining drones acted as electro-optical cameras.

A fighter serving as the command and control aircraft relayed real-time information to German and Finnish forces observing the activity.

While air defense was being addressed, ground troops requested close air support through a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) to extract the adversary. This was responded to by an Airbus H145M helicopter.

Airbus H145 helicopter with HForce weapon system
The Airbus H145M helicopter completed a ballistic development test of the HForce weapon system at Papa Airbase in Hungary in 2017. Image: Airbus Helicopters/Anthony Pecchi

The chopper then deployed a separate electro-optical drone while coordinating an attack on the rogue commander via a 9-liner digital emergency notification request.

A JTAC-controlled drone took a final flight to assess the simulated operation.

Exceeded Limitations

The milestone carries the FCAS program into its third phase, which will involve the construction of new capabilities and the modernization of existing assets to support initial FCAS operations by 2023.

A contract for the next stage was also signed by Airbus and BAAINBw, the company announced.

“With the Multi-Domain Flight Demo, or MDFD, we demonstrated for the first time in Europe  how manned-unmanned teaming capabilities and functionalities with up to ten connected  assets work in a real-life inspired scenario and under near operational conditions,” Airbus Military Air Systems Head Jean Brice Dumont said.

“This is yet another example of how we push boundaries and pioneer technologies so that our customers can fulfill their missions:  saving lives and ensuring a better future for us all.”

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