Brazilian Air Force and Embraer to study loyal wingman concept


Embraer and the Brazilian Air Force signed a memorandum of understanding that establishes a joint evaluation of the necessary capabilities for the conceptual design and development of an advanced unmanned aircraft system. 

The study aims to create a combat drone that would meet the needs of the Air Force. Embraer Defense & Security, the company’s defense branch, will be responsible for working with the Brazilian defense ministry to assess the needs of the military.

“This is a unique opportunity for the Brazilian Air Force to deepen its studies in disruptive technologies that may cause an imbalance in current and future scenarios,” commented the Brazilian Air Force Commander, Lieutenant-Brigadier Carlos de Almeida Baptista Junior. “In modern war, it is essential to use unmanned aerial platforms, operating alone or in conjunction with conventional aircraft. Such technology makes it possible to reduce costs and risks, without losing effectiveness in fulfilling the missions assigned to the Brazilian Air Force.” 

The idea of an unmanned aircraft system collaborating with other combat aircraft resembles the concept of a loyal wingman being developed by several other manufacturers around the globe. 

To date, Embraer has never developed a drone, let alone a fighter jet, on its own. However, the manufacturer could count on the knowledge acquired by the manufacturer while collaborating with Saab. In 2014, Brazil signed an agreement with Saab for the development and production of 36 Gripen E/F fighter jets for the Brazilian Air Force, with 15 aircraft to be assembled in Brazil. Some of the work, such as the final assembly, is carried out at the Gripen’s Project and Development Center of Sao Paulo, a facility jointly built by Saab and Embraer.

In an illustration video released by the manufacturer, a render of the Brazilian UCAV shows short swept wings fit for aerial combat. The motorization evokes the General Electric F-414 engine that also equips the Gripen E/F. While different from the “flying wing” approach of the Russian Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik, or the Dassault nEUROn, the concept still seems to take passive stealth into account. 

Other countries and manufacturers could also participate in the project. For example, Israeli drone manufacturers collaborated with the Brazilian Air Force in the past. Israel Aerospace Industries developed the Caçador drone, based on the MALE UAV Heron-1, for Brazil, while Elbit Systems supplied the Hermes 450 tactical drone through its Brazilian subsidiary AEL Sistemas, in which Embraer’s defense division holds a 25% share.


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