German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon jets recently demonstrated the capability to communicate with and steer “remote carriers” during the Timber Express exercise over Northern Germany and the North Sea.
The remote carriers used in the exercise were UAV demonstrators developed by Airbus as part of a broader effort to enhance capabilities of the future combat air system (FCAS).
The exercise represented the first time the interconnectivity of the remote carrier technology has been demonstrated with real fighter aircraft in a multi-data link environment.
During the exercise, the remote carriers, which currently use the Compact Airborne Networking Data Link (CANDL), were successfully connected to Link16, the operational tactical data link of the armed forces.
According to the Eurofighter Typhoon consortium, the remote carriers were not only visible to all tactical combat aircraft of the air force, but could also receive and execute orders without the need for technical modifications to the aircraft.
The communications, which also included Tornado fighters and NATO cooperative ESM Operations, were established within the framework of existing IT security regulations and NATO classification levels, the consortium added.
A further step was the demonstration of interoperability with the NATO concept of Co-operative ESM Operations (CESMO). This is a reconnaissance network spanning several branches of the armed forces aimed at locating threat systems in the electromagnetic spectrum in real time.
Airbus has succeeded in integrating the remote carriers as full component in the CESMO reconnaissance network. The simulated reconnaissance results of the remote carriers were made immediately available to the CESMO fusion element during the exercise and merged in real time with other reconnaissance results such as those of a flying Tornado ECR.
Airbus remote carriers
Designed to act as force multipliers, the remote carriers are UAV which aim at reducing the risks for manned aircraft by taking over specific air operations’ roles within high risk environments, providing new air warfare capabilities and teaming in combination with and coordinated by other manned air assets.
Capable of “cross platform mission management”, the remote carriers will complement and augment manned fighter aircraft capabilities performing in close cooperation yet with a high degree of automation to improve the mission performance in high intensity conflicts, and increase the combat mass to better compensate limited numbers of sophisticated manned fighter aircraft.
In a release from earlier this year, Airbus said several types of the systems were being studied, including expendable swarms possibly followed by more sophisticated groups, providing a wide scope of potential missions to better support a safer penetration of manned aircraft into hostile environment.
Airbus is working with France’s MBDA on the program.