The US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) has awarded contracts to three companies to develop and build missionised prototypes for the USAF’s Skyborg Vanguard autonomous UCAV program.
The three companies – Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI), and Kratos – have each been awarded contracts to develop unmanned systems that can be flown in experimentation teaming events with manned aircraft.
“This award is a major step forward for our game-changing Skyborg capability—this award supporting our operational experimentation is truly where concepts become realities,” the AFLCMC’s Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft, BrigGen Dale White said in a statement. “We will experiment to prove out this technology, and to do that we will aggressively test and fly to get this capability into the hands of our warfighters.”
The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) describes Skyborg as an “autonomy-focused capability that will enable the Air Force to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments.”
It says, “The program will enable airborne combat mass by building a transferable autonomy foundation for a family of layered, unmanned air vehicles. This foundation will deliver unmatched combat capability per dollar by lowering the barriers to entry for industry and allowing continuous hardware and software innovation in acquisition, fielding and sustainment of critical mission systems.”
The AFLCMC release says the prototype effort will consist of multiple phases which are meant to continue evaluation of the performance of the companies. The air vehicles will serve as platforms to test the Skyborg autonomous core system and will also demonstrate the competitive advantage of autonomous attritable aircraft by participating in user-focused and influenced experimentation events.
The companies are scheduled to deliver the first air vehicles by May 2021 for the experimentation events to commence in July 2021.