Could This Be The 1 Thing That Makes F-22s and F-35s Obsolete?

Michael Peck

Key point: European scientists and manufacturers have proven quite capable of designing advanced armaments.

The Low Observable UAV Testbed, or LOUT, isn’t a fighter or a bomber. It is a 4-ton, diamond-shaped drone intended for research into stealth technologies.

Developed by Airbus under a German military contract, LOUT “was developed with a holistic approach to stealth so that it could address the three domains of capabilities LO [low observability] platforms must feature: reduced radar, visual, IR [infrared] and acoustic signatures; ability to employ electronic countermeasures; and ability to perform emission management, so that it can reduce detectability of the onboard sensors,” according to the Aviationist web site.

Project leader Mario Hertzog told reporters said the design had also been developed to avoid detection by low-frequency radars. The model shown to journalists was not flyable. But it did have several features that indicate that European air forces and manufacturers are delving into sophisticated technologies.

“The model features a weapons bay located in between the engines, which will use a diverterless air duct made of low-observable materials,” according to Aviation Week magazine. “Journalists were not shown the positions of the air intakes, but images released by Airbus reveal them to be just aft of the ‘cockpit.’

“Lighting was used to reveal elements of the model’s topside including a notional cockpit where the company has tested a number of transparency technologies that Hertzog said do not significantly affect the platform’s broadband low-observability. Also shown off was a flat exhaust nozzle with a corresponding aperture underneath the exhaust that could allow for thrust-vectoring technologies. Of note, there was no sign of conventional flight control services. It is not clear whether this was deliberately omitted but could hint at an active flow control system that eliminates moving control surfaces. Airbus also detailed a steerable active electronically scanned array that was embedded into the skin of the aircraft, presumably to support high-bandwidth datalinks.”

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