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Airbus-led large-scale flight demo teams up fighters, a helicopter and drones

Download: Printable PDF Date: 11 Dec 2022 08:58 (UTC) category:
Airbus-led large-scale flight demo teams up fighters, a helicopter and drones - Manufacturer publisher
Dana Ermolenko

Europe first large-scale multi-domain flight demo, led  by Airbus, two fighter jets, one helicopter and five unmanned remote carriers teamed up and  accomplished a mission that could occur in real-life situations. The Future Combat Air System Manned-Unmanned Teaming Demonstrator project will now move to the next phase:  further paving the way for FCAS by developing a flying remote carrier demonstrator in  the coming years. 

Jean Brice Dumont, Head of Military Air Systems at Airbus, commented: “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. 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.” 

In the demo conducted in late summer 2022, the fighter jets, helicopter and unmanned remote  carriers were connected via a meshed compact airborne networking data link (CANDL) that  allowed them to seamlessly interact above Rovajärvi, Finland - and help to rid the world of a  fictional rogue warlord. 

A Learjet 35 from Airbus subsidiary GFD acted as a surrogate fighter, with the crew on board  commanding the remote carriers, represented by five modified Airbus Do-DT25 drones. Two  of them were equipped with Electronic Support Measures sensors from partner  company MBDA Germany to detect the fictional rogue warlord’s ground air missile positions.  The remaining three RCs were equipped with Electro Optical cameras that recorded and  confirmed the locations of the air defences visually. Additionally, one simulated fighter acting  as a command and control aircraft was visible on the screens in the visitor tent where the  contractor representatives from the German and Finnish armed forces followed the demo.  

While the air defence was eliminated, ground troops requested close air support via a forward  Joint Terminal Attack Controller to help them extract the fictional rogue warlord. An  Airbus H145M helicopter responded immediately, helping the team to achieve their mission.  In parallel, the H145M teamed up with one of the EO RCs keeping an eye on the surroundings  and providing the special forces with reconnaissance data. The helicopter crew commanded  the RC directly from the cockpit while the video stream of the Do-DT25 was directly transferred  to the H145M. The JTAC, located close to the troops on ground, co-ordinated the attack by  digital emergency notification (9-liner request) to the helicopter and partly took over command  and control of one EO RC to assess the effect of the operation finally. 

The MDFD concluded the second phase of the so-called FCAS MUM-T (Future Combat Air  System Manned-Unmanned-Teaming) Demonstrator project, funded by the German  procurement office BAAINBw. Now the project is going to enter Phase III, which will lead to the maturing of existing capabilities and development of new ones to enable initial operations  in the 2030s with existing combat aircraft and remote carriers developed by then. An initial  contract for the go ahead has just been signed between Airbus and BAAINBw.  

Remote carriers with different sizes and capabilities are vital assets for FCAS, where they will  operate in a team with the manned New Generation Fighter and the Eurofighter, connected to  a cyber-secured combat cloud network. Operating under the command of a manned fighter  aircraft, RCs provide better protection for pilots while enhancing the operational envelope and  the ability to act in risky situations. 

Multi-Domain Flight Demo - the partners 

The MDFD was led by Airbus in cooperation with the German Bundeswehr, the Finnish  Defence Forces and industry partners such as missile company MBDA Germany, compact airborne networking data link provider Patria, autonomy and mission technology startup  HAT.tec and drone launch system provider Robonic.  

Find out more about the MDFD here.


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