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Airbus showcases ‘Wingman' jet-like stealth drone concept at giant aerospace show in Berlin

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  • Airbus this week revealed the concept for a new fighter-type drone called the Wingman.
  • The drone would be an "unmanned escort for manned fighter jets," Airbus said in a statement, noting that it is designed to operate in a similar way to an actual wingman.
  • The ILA Berlin Air Show is one of the biggest in the world, bringing together startups and industry heavyweights to showcase the latest developments in civilian and military air and space industries.

Airbus this week revealed the concept for a new fighter-type drone, called Wingman, and showcased a model of it at Berlin's massive ILA Air Show.

The drone would be an "unmanned escort for manned fighter jets," Airbus said in a statement, noting that it is designed to operate in a similar way to an actual wingman. In aviation, a wingman is a pilot in a secondary aircraft that supports and protects the primary one.

The drone, which can be commanded by fighter jet pilots, can be deployed on riskier missions which could post a threat to manned 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," Airbus said.

Unmanned drones and aircraft have become a key feature of modern warfare. They offer efficiency and greater range, as they do not require the capacity to carry crew and don't need any safety features or similar support systems.

Ralf Hirschberger | Afp | Getty Images
A new fighter-type drone "Wingman" Airbus model is pictured at the International Aerospace Exhibition (ILA) in Schoenefeld, near Berlin, on June 5, 2024.

The model on display at the Berlin air show is described as a foundation for the design and eventual production of the drone. It includes features such as low observability, sensors and the integration of armaments, Airbus said.

Airbus also said it was working with artificial intelligence defense company Helsing on developing AI technologies for the Wingman drone.

VR air defense trainers, drones and fighter engines

The ILA Berlin Air Show is one of the biggest in the world, bringing together startups and industry heavyweights to showcase the latest developments in both the civilian and military air and space industries.

A Donaustahl Maus quadcopter kamikaze attack drone hangs on display a the 2024 ILA Berlin Air Show on June 05, 2024 in Schoenefeld, Germany.
Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images
A Donaustahl Maus quadcopter kamikaze attack drone hangs on display a the 2024 ILA Berlin Air Show on June 05, 2024 in Schoenefeld, Germany.

A range of drones are on display this year, including so-called "kamikaze" drones which are believed to have been used in the Russia-Ukraine war. These drones typically carry explosives and loiter near a target before engaging it.

There are also demonstrations of virtual reality combat training equipment, which give military personnel the experience of using weapons and defense systems without actually using missiles or aircraft.

A stand host demonstrates the use of a Hensoldt virtual reality trainer for Stinger anti-aircraft missiles on display at the 2024 ILA Berlin Air Show on June 05, 2024 in Schoenefeld, Germany.
Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images
A stand host demonstrates the use of a Hensoldt virtual reality trainer for Stinger anti-aircraft missiles on display at the 2024 ILA Berlin Air Show on June 05, 2024 in Schoenefeld, Germany.

Other equipment on show includes new fighter engines — designed to provide more power to aircraft or run less hot to avoid detection — as well as reconnaissance drones and a medical evacuation drone, intended to efficiently reach and help wounded soldiers.

Some of these products are already in use, while other designs are still conceptual or in development.

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