Saab recently revealed a supersonic, stealthy ‘loyal wingman’ drone concept, part of its Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program. Designed for high-speed, low-observable missions, the drone boasts a sleek, blended wing/body configuration optimized for supersonic efficiency.
Saab’s FCAS effort emphasizes rapid, low-cost aerodynamic development, leveraging computational fluid dynamics tools and additive manufacturing techniques. The aerodynamic evolution of the loyal wingman design prioritizes radar signature reduction and structural optimization.
Featuring wind-tunnel tests conducted in December 2021, the concept showcases a single-engine design with a focus on low radar signature and beyond visual range air-to-air missions. Despite its supersonic capabilities, the drone incorporates internal weapon bays, challenging conventional design paradigms.
The L-2000 wind tunnel at KTH in Stockholm was chosen for the test, and the wind tunnel model was designed to be made entirely in 3D printed PA2200 plastic, with the exception of the load carrying frame which was made out of aluminum.
While Saab’s involvement in European combat drone initiatives like Team Tempest and GCAP remains uncertain, its supersonic loyal wingman concept presents a unique blend of high performance and stealth capabilities. The potential integration of such drones with existing platforms like the Gripen E could revolutionize air combat dynamics, enhancing tactical flexibility and mission effectiveness.
Saab’s concept challenges conventional wisdom by offering a costly yet potent solution for combat air forces. With its advanced capabilities and potential to augment both fourth and fifth-generation fighters, the Saab Loyal Wingman represents a significant advancement in drone technology, poised to redefine modern aerial warfare.
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