Airbus/SCAF: A drone was dropped and piloted from an A400M “Atlas” transport plane – Military Zone

In January 2021, as part of the “I4FCAS” initiative [pour « Innovations for FCAS » ou « Innovations pour le SCAF – Système de combat aérien du futur]Airbus Defense & Space had presented a project consisting in dropping a connected effector [un drone, pour simplifier] from an A400M “Atlas” transport aircraft. And this, with the assistance of the German companies Geradts GmbH and SFL GmbH, as well as with that of the German Center for Aeronautics and Astronautics [Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR].

One of the difficulties was then to find a solution to drop a connected effector from the hold of an A400M. Then to make the two devices communicate with each other.

Last February, and after having obtained all the necessary authorizations, such a solution was successfully tested, a DO-DT 25 drone having been able to extract itself from a Luftwaffe A400M [force aérienne allemande]… and even transmit data to it thanks to MACCS [Modular Airborne Combat Cloud Services], a device developed by Airbus. This test was then carried out with the support of the Wehrtechnische Dienststellen 61 [WTD 61 – Centre technique de la Bundeswehr pour les aéronefs et les équipements aéronautiques, ndlr].

On December 12, nearly ten months later, a new step was taken, during a new test that brought together the same actors as for the previous one. Thus, as in February, a Do-DT25 was dropped by an A400M. Then, after the ignition of its two reactors, the crew of the transport plane took control. And this for the duration of the flight.

Then control of the drone was given to a ground operator, who landed it “safely”.

“The excellent collaboration with our customer and our German partners on this drone launcher campaign from the A400M is further proof of how the
FCAS development will take innovation and technologies to the next level,” commented Michael Schoellhorn, CEO of Airbus Defense and Space. And to add: “The SCAF as
system of systems is beginning to take shape now”.

In its press release, Airbus underlines the effectiveness of “new working methods”, such as “rapid prototyping” and the “common approach to flight testing”, implemented by WTD 61, DLR and SFL companies. and Geradts. “This allowed the multidisciplinary team to develop and integrate the launcher, in a
system of systems context, in a very short time. Throughout the development, these new collaborative working methods were supported by the German armaments agency, BAAINBw”, maintains the industrialist.

Connected effectors [ou « déportés »], potentially equipped with artificial intelligence algorithms, constitute one of the important pillars of FCAS. Pillar of which Airbus Defense & Space must ensure the project management, with MBDA and the Spanish Satnus as main partners.

According to Airbus, an A400M will be able to release up to 50 remote effectors [ou 12 selon l’envergure] near an operation area. This will allow, for example, to make them evolve into a swarm in order to decoy or saturate an opposing air defense. Inexpensive – and therefore expendable – they could be used for intelligence flights in contested environments, or even for strikes.

It should be noted that this is the second announcement in the space of a few days made by Airbus Defense & Space about the “technological bricks” of interest to the SCAF. Last week, the industrialist said he had carried out an “aerial demonstration” during which two combat planes [simulés par des Learjet 35]an H145M helicopter and five Do-DT25 drones interacted together in a network called CANDL [pour « Compact Airborne Networking Data Link].

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Airbus/SCAF: A drone was dropped and piloted from an A400M “Atlas” transport plane – Military Zone

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