European aircraft manufacturer, Airbus has shown an aerodynamic model of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or drone with the widespread use of stealth technologies. The development of the device has been carried out since 2007 on the order of the German Ministry of Defense as part of the LOUT (Low Observable UAV Testbed, a stealth test platform). Until recently, the drone project was classified.
Currently, several projects of promising unmanned vehicles and manned fighter jets are being developed in Europe, which in the future may be adopted by several countries, including Germany and France. Airbus is involved in some of these projects. In particular, last December the company successfully defended the project of a strike drone. In addition, Airbus is developing a FCAS fighter.
The stealth drone of the LOUT project is created under the “flying wing” scheme with a diamond-shaped glider in the plan. The device is designed for subsonic speed. It is equipped with a turbofan engine hidden in the hull. The engine’s air intakes are displayed on the top plane of the glider. In 2014, Airbus assembled a model for aerodynamic research and testing in an off-the-air camera. The model has a wingspan of about 12 meters. The weight of the device is about 4 tons.
Although the device is made unmanned, at the request of the customer the model is equipped with a cockpit and a flashlight. At LOUT, developers are working on several low-visibility technologies, including radio-absorbing glider coatings and air intakes. In addition, the flaps of the UAV chassis compartments and the internal arm compartments are also designed to make a minimal contribution to the radar visibility of the device.
According to Mario Herzog, project manager for the promising Airbus combat systems at Airbus, the company fulfilled all contractual obligations to the German Ministry of Defense; work on creating a LOUT is no longer underway. At the same time, the concern does not exclude that the military can order additional developments for the aircraft design. It is still unknown whether the military plans to order flight tests of the drone. Airbus plans to use the results obtained under the LOUT project in other aircraft projects.
In January of this year, the French company Dassault Aviation together with the Defense Procurement Agency (DGA) of France tested the promising nEUROn strike drone, created using stealth technologies. During these tests, data were collected on the drone visibility for military aircraft radar. During the tests, two Eurofighter Typhoon fighters from the Spanish Air Force from different angles tried to detect a manoeuvring drone and direct their weapons – IRIS-T air-to-air missiles.