The US Air Force (USAF) has contracted BAE Systems to develop an attritable air vehicle system for the air arm’s Skyborg programme, the company announced on October 22.
Under this programme – which has a contract ceiling of up to US$400m – the company will compete to develop a digital design for an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that is capable of autonomous operation.
The USAF’s Skyborg project seeks to develop and produce a low-cost, expendable, force multiplying UAS that can team up with manned aircraft to increase air combat power. BAE Systems adds that when “teamed with a manned aircraft, the [UAS’] will leverage autonomy to disrupt and defeat adversaries in contested environments.”
Ehtisham Siddiqui, vice president and general manager of Controls and Avionics Solutions at BAE Systems, said: “The need to generate combat power faster than our adversaries is critical to address near-peer threats… This award will accelerate the development and deployment of manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) technologies to give the [USAF] a decisive edge in the battlespace.”
The company states that the UAS’ “will be designed using BAE Systems’ autonomous systems, including sensors and payloads that communicate across a shared network with manned aircraft.” This modular and common system approach allows for rapid updates and integration, which enables the latest capabilities to be fielded in defending against emerging threats.
The incorporation of a shared network will provide a MUM-T capability, allowing the UAS’ to team up with manned aircraft to work together in completing missions. BAE Systems adds that “the network extends the reach of the fleet, while keeping the manned aircraft and personnel out of harm’s way. It will allow the [UAS’] to serve as the eyes and ears for pilots, collecting and sending data from the battlespace to a manned fighter.”