Berlin, 5 June 2024 – Airbus Defence and Space and Helsing, Europe’s leading defence AI and software company, signed a framework cooperation agreement at the ILA aerospace trade show in Berlin. According to the agreement, the companies will work together on artificial intelligence (AI) technologies which will be used in a future  Wingman system. This unmanned fighter-type aircraft will operate with current combat jets and receive its tasks from a pilot in a command aircraft such as the Eurofighter.

Airbus is also presenting its Wingman concept for the first time at the ILA. As a response  to increasing operational requirements by the German Air Force, the Wingman is intended to augment the capabilities of manned combat aircraft with uncrewed platforms that can carry weapons and other effectors. 

"The current conflicts on Europe's borders show how important air superiority is," said Mike Schoellhorn, CEO at Airbus Defence and Space. "Manned-Unmanned Teaming will play a central role in achieving air superiority: With an unmanned Wingman at their side, fighter pilots can operate outside the danger zone. They give the orders and always have the decision-making authority. Supported by AI, the wingman then takes over the dangerous tasks, including target reconnaissance and destruction or electronic jamming and deception of enemy air defense systems."

“Whilst we will always have a human in the loop, we must realize that the most dangerous parts of an unmanned mission will see a high degree of autonomy and thus require AI”, said Gundbert Scherf, Co-CEO at Helsing. “From the processing of data from sensors over the optimization of sub-systems to closing the loop on system-level: software-defined capabilities and AI will be a critical component of the Wingman system for the German Air Force.”

Under the AI agreement, Airbus will provide its expertise in the interaction of unmanned and manned military aircraft, so-called Manned-Unmanned Teaming, and as prime contractor of major European defense programs such as the Eurofighter or the A400M military transporter. Helsing will contribute its AI stack of relevant software-defined mission capabilities, including the fusion of various sensors and algorithms for electronic warfare.

More information about the Wingman can be found here.

Photo: Michael Schoellhorn, CEO at Airbus Defence and Space (on the left), and Gundbert Scherf, Co-CEO at Helsing, in front of the Airbus Wingman model.

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