The German Air Force and Airbus, working with the German Aerospace Center DLR, and German companies SFL and Geradts, have jointly carried out what they say is the world’s first successful launch and operation of a Remote Carrier flight test demonstrator from a flying A400M.
The Remote Carrier unmanned aerial system is envisioned as a component in the Future Combat Air System (FCAS), flying in close cooperation with manned aircraft and supporting pilots in their tasks and missions.
FCAS is a next-generation fighter project undertaken by Germany, France and Spain. The system of systems approach to FCAS will include manned multirole combat aircraft, unmanned escort aircraft and new weapons and communication systems. Transport aircraft such as the A400M will act as force multipliers, i.e. “power amplifiers” and range extenders for the remote carriers.
Acting as motherships, A400Ms will bring the Remote Carriers as close as possible to their areas of operation before releasing up to 50 small or up to 12 heavy Remote Carriers. These will then join manned aircraft, operating with a high degree of automation although always under a pilot’s control.
The Remote Carrier test took place on November 15 in closed airspace over the Baltic Sea at the Todendorf military training area and saw the Remote Carrier launch from an A400M transport aircraft and then go into controlled flight.
“The excellent collaboration with our German customer and partners on the A400M UAV Launcher campaign is further evidence of how the development of FCAS will take innovation and technologies to the next level,” said Airbus Defence and Space CEO Michael Schoellhorn. “FCAS as a system of systems is starting to take shape now.”
The device for launching Remote Carriers from a flying A400M was developed in just six months. For the test flight, it was loaded onto the ramp of a Bundeswehr A400M, from which the Remote Carrier demonstrator, a modified Airbus Do-DT25 drone, was launched. After the release, the Do-DT25’s engines were started and it continued in powered flight mode. The crew on board the A400M then handed over control to an operator on the ground, who commanded and landed the drone.