Airbus has revealed more information about the new loyal wingman drone intended to accompany the upcoming European sixth-generation fighter jet, the Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
The concept was presented at the International Fighter Conference 2022 on November 16, 2022.
It includes a modular design, which depicted the drone with a common fuselage and three options for the nose: one sporting a radar for air-to-air engagements, another for air-to-ground attack, and a final option intended for electronic warfare.
Five payload configurations were also displayed in the presentation. The drone is envisioned as carrying jamming pods, two Meteor long-range air-to-air missiles, two GBU-54 precision-guided bombs, four Spear air-to-ground missiles or two light remote carriers – smaller drones developed under the FCAS program – in its internal weapons bay.
A Meteor, JDAM, Spear, etc, armed loyal wingman, anyone? @AirbusDefence looking to oblige with modular heavy Remote Carrier concept. #InternationalFighter #FCAS pic.twitter.com/1xZ1LH4Nry— Gareth Jennings (@GarethJennings3) November 16, 2022
A single-engine stealthy design with a V-tail, the new drone is somewhat reminiscent of the MQ-28 Ghost Bat, previously known as the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. The MQ-28 also has a modular nose section with a number of variants for different missions, but its pre-production prototypes appear to lack an internal weapons bay.
A short video showing the FCAS, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Eurodrone operating alongside the new heavy loyal wingman, as well as two previously known FCAS drones, was presented at the conference.
The video also shows the Airbus A400M Atlas military transporter dispensing a swarm of loyal wingmen, a concept Airbus has been working on for a while.
A little #FCAS teaser from @AirbusDefence ahead of @DefenceIQ #InternationalFighter 2022… pic.twitter.com/FvdIRXxaWO— Gareth Jennings (@GarethJennings3) November 16, 2022
So far, it has been revealed that two loyal wingman drones, known as remote carrier vehicles, are being developed as part of the FCAS program. Both feature configurable payloads and extendable wings, while the larger of the two also features an internal weapons bay.
The presentation portrays the drone as a potential carrier for the smaller remote carrier vehicle and highlights that “not using the fighters to release Remote Carriers will preserve their ability to carry weapons”.
The concept of loyal wingmen carrying several smaller drones for reconnaissance or other purposes has already been demonstrated by other designs.
While it has never been officially presented, the new loyal wingman can be spotted alongside the remote carrier vehicles in artwork released by Airbus in June 2022.