Airbus Develops STAR Manned-Unmanned Teaming Program for Eurofighter

Airbus Develops STAR Manned-Unmanned Teaming Program for Eurofighter

Airbus is set to develop a manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) capability to enable the Eurofighter Typhoon combat aircraft to remotely control ‘loyal wingmen’ under the System and Teaming Advanced Research (STAR) program.

A recent job posting by Airbus for a chief engineer on the STAR project detailed the key objectives, highlighting the role of the Eurofighter as a precursor to the Future Combat Air System (FCAS)/Système de Combat Aérien du Futur (SCAF) program.

According to the announcement, the project will be conducted at Airbus Defence and Space’s facilities in Manching, southern Germany, as part of the X-Platform Capability Study (XPCS). The initiative aims to demonstrate MUM-T capabilities on the Eurofighter, with a long-term goal of integrating command and control functionalities to prepare for FCAS/SCAF.

The project will focus on developing the STAR demonstrator, a twin-seat Eurofighter equipped with advanced cockpit and connectivity features. These enhancements will explore new human-machine interface (HMI) and connectivity technologies for future FCAS/SCAF applications, while evolving the Eurofighter to serve as a future FCAS/SCAF asset, according to Airbus. The XPCS and STAR demonstration objectives are designed to be compatible and complementary to the long-term development efforts (LTE) of the four Eurofighter partner countries.

Although Airbus’s job listing did not explicitly mention it, the Eurofighter’s MUM-T capability will be related to the control of remote carriers (RC) and Electronic Combat Wingman (ECW).

Manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) involves operating manned and unmanned systems in a coordinated manner to achieve a common mission objective. As one of the key innovations that will define future airpower, MUM-T relies on intelligent, connected, and modular unmanned systems interconnected by a distributed intelligence network. These systems will act as force multipliers for crewed aircraft, enhancing the team’s capabilities while keeping the pilot out of harm’s way but still in control.

MUM-T is crucial for the creation of Remote Carriers, one of the pillars of the Future Combat Air System (FCAS). In the complex future air combat environment, it will be necessary to deploy unmanned aircraft alongside fighter jets, operating as a team. Remote Carriers will be specially designed UAVs for this role. They will be able to act as remote sensors, carrying a wide range of payloads suitable for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions. Other versions will have the capability to directly engage threats, both kinetically and non-kinetically (e.g., through electronic attack). The Remote Carriers will be modular, allowing a selected payload to be chosen according to the planned mission and required capabilities, effectively making them multi-mission air combat assets.

Thanks to the cooperation between different types of piloted assets, such as mission aircraft and helicopters, and unmanned assets, MUM-T will bring benefits to a wider range of missions, including search and rescue, maritime surveillance, and border protection. Sensors installed on unmanned systems will improve the coverage of manned platforms, enhancing mission efficiency and effectiveness.

The benefits of Manned-Unmanned Teaming include reducing risk, as unmanned platforms can take on the most dangerous tasks, increasing pilot safety. Additionally, it acts as a force multiplier, enhancing the capabilities of piloted assets with Remote Carriers flying alongside manned aircraft. Finally, MUM-T is an essential pillar for the Future Combat Air System, synergizing the best of manned and unmanned systems.

We are eager to learn more about this project and follow its development over time, but much remains to be done for now, and only artistic impressions have been provided by Airbus. Stay tuned for further updates.

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