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Airbus to unveil concept of Ghost Bat rival

written by Robert Dougherty | June 4, 2024

Airbus is set to unveil a rival to Australia’s MQ-28 Ghost Bat in Berlin this week.

The new Wingman 1-to-1 model concept model will be put on static display at the International Aerospace Exhibition from 5–9 June.

It will reportedly showcase all of the foreseen capabilities required, such as low observability, the integration of various armaments, advanced sensors, connectivity and teaming solutions.

Based on the current concept, the Wingman is intended to augment the capabilities of current manned combat aircraft with uncrewed platforms that can carry weapons and other effectors.


Airbus Defence and Space chief executive officer Michael Schoellhorn said the Wingman model will be shown in Berlin in a similar way to a ‘show car’ used as a design exercise by the automotive industry; as not all of what is on display may find its way into series 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,” Schoellhorn said.

“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 model on display at ILA Berlin will serve as a foundation and catalyst to drive the design requirements for each generation of the Wingman, according to Schoellhorn.

The Wingman is considered to act as a pilot in another aircraft that protects and supports the flight lead, delivers more tactical options and thus contributes to mission success.

In the Airbus concept, the Wingman is going to operate very much in the same way; only that it is neither a pilot nor a fighter jet flown by one.

It is a fighter-type drone that will be commanded by a pilot in a current combat aircraft such as the Eurofighter and can take on high-risk mission tasks that would pose a bigger threat to manned-only aircraft.

The Wingman’s tasks can range from reconnaissance to jamming targets and engaging targets on the ground or in the air with precision guided munitions or missiles.

Pilots in manned aircraft acting as ‘command fighters’ will always have control of the mission. They are always the final decision-making authority, while benefiting from the protection and smaller risk exposure that the delegation of tactical taskings to unmanned systems offers.

An additional focus is on affordably increasing the overall combat mass so air forces can match the number of opposing forces in peers or near-peers in conflicts.

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