Airbus has revealed a stealth unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) demonstrator aircraft that it has been developing in secret for over a decade.
The Low Observable UAV Testbed (LOUT) was shown to reporters for the first time on 5 November during the company's annual Trade Media Briefing at Manching in southern Germany.
Speaking at the unveiling of what remains a classified programme for the German government, Mario Hertzog, German Low Observable (LO) Demonstrator Head, noted the secrecy of the project before providing as much detail as he was permitted.
"Nobody is aware of what we have been doing here - this is a classified project that was started as long ago as 2007. The development contract was awarded in 2010, and the LOUT has been developed in Manching and Bremen in a Skunk Works approach," Hertzog said.
Shown to reporters in an anechoic chamber, the LOUT is designed to be a subsonic diamond-shaped LO vehicle that measures 12 m x 12 m (approximately the same size as the BAE Systems Taranis UAV demonstrator from the UK) and weighs four tons. It is designed to offer visual, acoustic, radar, and infrared stealth against ground-based threats, indicating that a potential strike role for the technologies is being developed and tested.
The aircraft features an internal weapons bay and all-aspect stealth design features, including radar-absorbing materials, low-radar cross section (RCS) engine inlets, structural cooling technologies, minimised gaps between surfaces, and unspecified LO coatings. With the LOUT optimised to be stealthy against ground-based threats, the intakes are mounted on top of the aircraft.
The LOUT also featured a canopy, although Hertzog noted that this was to test the LO properties of the transparency itself for sensor and other applications, rather than to indicate any manned capability for the aircraft.
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