Airbus is currently working on a project to convert Eurofighter aircraft for integrating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), allowing for Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T). The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) acts as the lead customer for this initiative.

To initiate this program in 2025, Airbus will reconfigure a Eurofighter Typhoon twin-seat test aircraft to enable it to control UAV formations. The aircraft has been dubbed Eurofighter STAR (System and Teaming Advanced Research). It will be fitted with a modified cockpit interface and different modular avionics. In addition to the changes onboard the aircraft, the fighter will also carry a modular mission pod. The pod will house different datalink and telemetry components. The results of the following test campaigns will be used to field features for the Eurofighter Long Term Evolution (LTE) upgrade project, as well as help to shape the MUM-T architecture of FCAS. The LTE upgrades will enable the Eurofighter to have native MUM-T capability.

Ipa 7 Livery
Eurofighter IPA7 in anniversary livery, Airbus

As a bridge to the planned introduction of Remote Carrier (RC) and Wingman UAVs within the FCAS project, Airbus and the Luftwaffe are cooperating on demonstrator work for an Electronic Combat Wingman (ECW) UAV. The Luftwaffe has identified the need for a sped-up introduction of unmanned combat capabilities ahead of the service entry date of FCAS. More specifically, the service has found that the most urgent UAV capability requirement lays in the Suppression and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD/DEAD) missions. Airbus aims to fly such a demonstrator by the end of the decade, alongside its Remote Carrier and Wingman demonstrator platforms. However, unlike the other unmanned aircraft, the Luftwaffe aims to field the ECW by 2032. The development has only been partially secured so far. It is expected that the ambitious timeline can only be met in case of further funding.

A400m Remote Carrier
A400M deploying Remote Carrier Demonstrator mid-flight, Airbus

The new development effort builds on the expertise Airbus has previously gained in MUM-T operations. The company has so far conducted multiple tests with air-launched demonstrators of it’s Remote Carrier, deployed from an A400M aircraft. Airbus has also conducted multiple joint trials of Remote Carrier missions with the Luftwaffe, notably including the control of multiple RC demonstrators by a Eurofighter aircraft. During these exercise missions, the UAVs also acted as datalink nodes and provided sensor data to manned aircraft.