Airbus recently released images of its Low Observable UAV Testbed (LOUT) to the public. The previously classified project, begun back in 2007, has now completed its first phase of testing. Built on a technological foundation of electronic countermeasures, signature reduction, and electromagnetic emission control, this demonstrator looks to achieve a stealthy low probability of intercept (LPI) for Airbus’s Future Combat Air System (FCAS). Tyler Rogoway of The War Zone tells us that communications, sensors, and even cyber-security are included in the program. He writes (abridged):
LOUT was based on a Skunk Works concept of program execution, which you can read all about in detail in this past post of ours. The initiative incorporated holistic signature reduction techniques across RF, IR, visual, and acoustic domains. It also worked to better understand how to integrate advanced electronic warfare and countermeasures into a stealthy design to increase its survivability.
— ISK Consulting (@iskconsult) November 5, 2019
Advanced mission control and sensor fusion software that compared the aircraft’s signature against threat capabilities in its environment was also part of the initiative as was the integration of advanced sensors beneath its stealthy skin. All areas of stealth technology, from the aircraft’s air inlets, to its exhaust, to its sensor apertures, and other radar defeating sub-structures were incorporated into the design. Stealthy low-probability of intercept (LPI) communications and sensors and even cybersecurity were also parts of the program. So, we are basically talking about a huge risk reduction and research program that could work as a pre-runner to eventually designing and producing a stealthy operational airframe.
From what we know about the program at this point in time, no flying airframe was ever built or tested. This risk reduction and knowledgebase expansion effort has some parallels to BAE’s “Replica” demonstrator, which was part of the Royal Air Force’s Future Offensive Air System (FOAS) initiative in the 1990s. That program also resulted in a high-end mockup that worked to build knowledge about next-generation low-observable technologies.