In Berlin w/c 9 June 2024, the German weapons manufacturer Diehl Defence showcased its new Light Remote Carrier (LRC).

FEANIX – a future effector, adaptable, networked, intelligent, expendable – is an uncrewed LRC that operates in the skies as part of a hybrid unit of aerial asets alongside a crewed ‘mother’ platform.

It has a weight of less than 300 kilogrammes and a length of less than 4 metres.

Due to its modularity, the LRC is individually equippable with different payloads, from sensors to lethal and non-lethal effectors, depending on the operational scenario and mission.

With a low signature, FEANIX is difficult to detect by enemy air defence and it makes a valuable contribution to the networked battle management. Besides the mentioned modularity, it is also characterised by its networking, swarming, robustness and stand-off capability.

Remote Carriers are a core element of the FCAS programme directed by France, Germany and Spain, but are also used beyond the FCAS role, which is why Diehl Defence aims for an operational availability well before the FCAS realisation period of 2040+.

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Hybrid units – a new form of aerial warfare

Through technological developments with autonomy, manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) is beginning to evolve the way militaries conduct aerial warfare.

The concept denotes the homogenous employment of heterogenous aerial assets, namely traditional crewed platforms (i.e. fighter jets and attack helicopters) and uncrewed platforms, within individual combat units

There are other partnerships and programmes besides FCAS that are pursuing this new conception, including the Global Combat Air Programme – among Italy, Japan and the UK – as well as the US Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) programme.

Within NGAD, the US invested $490m in fiscal year 2024, aiming for the service to maintain effective deterrence and control the skies. By accelerating the development of these ‘Collaborative Combat Aircraft’, the Air Force will be able to augment current and future platforms with lower-cost complementary systems that increase lethality and exchange ratios in highly contested environments.

FCAS nations will pursue a similar system, a role that Diehl’s FEANIX may be able to fulfil.

LRCs such as FEANIX operate highly automated and independent of the carrier system. They provide an increased capability for all dimensions, such as land, air, sea and cyber in so-called multi-domain operations.

These systems will be required in a high quantity and in different variants in the battlefield of the future in order to meet the broad capability requirements. The combat power on the battlefield is increased due to the high number of LRCs (combat mass). Thus, the risk to crews in their expensive platforms is significantly reduced.