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IFC 2022: Airbus reveals ‘heavy loyal wingman' concept for FCAS

An Airbus briefing slide showing the modular nature of the heavy RC concept. (Airbus via Janes/Gareth Jennings)

Airbus has showcased a new modular concept for an armed ‘heavy loyal wingman' to be operated as part of the wider Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

Shown at the International Fighter Conference 2022 (IFC 2022), taking place in Berlin on 16 November, the Remote Carrier (RC) concept features a common fuselage with interchangeable mission and weapon systems to suit the needs of the mission.

As depicted in the artwork, the heavy RC features three interchangeable radar payloads for air-to-air, air-to-ground, and electronic attack, respectively. An internal weapons bay can carry jamming pods or a range of munitions or effectors, including two MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles (BVRAAMs), two GBU-54 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), four MBDA Select Precision Effects At Range-Electronic Warfare (SPEAR-EW) effectors, or two smaller ‘light' RCs.

While the light RCs are to be carried by the manned combat aircraft element of FCAS (either the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II, or the New Generation Fighter [NGF] in Luftwaffe service), the heavy RCs will either be carried by and launched from larger mother ships, such as the Airbus A400M, or will be flown from and recovered to airfields. As noted by Airbus, not having the manned fighter carry the heavy RC frees up stores stations to carry other weapon systems instead.

In terms of a role, the heavy RC is envisioned to take on the three primary tasks of sensor, effector, and light RC dispenser.

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