The US Air Force’s Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB has awarded multiple indefinite-delivery / indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts to The Boeing Co., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, Inc. and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp.
These initial awards will establish a vendor pool that will continue to compete for up to $400 million in subsequent delivery orders in support of the Skyborg Vanguard Program.
The aim of the Skyborg Vanguard program is to integrate autonomous, attritable unmanned air vehicle technology with open missions systems to enable manned-unmanned teaming. This will provide a game-changing capability to the warfighter, says the AFLCMC. The attritable UAV will provide the foundation on which the Air Force can build an airborne, autonomous ‘best of breed’ system that adapts, orients and decides at machine speed for a wide variety of increasingly complex mission sets.
“Because autonomous systems can support missions that are too strenuous or dangerous for manned crews, Skyborg can increase capability significantly and be a force multiplier for the Air Force,” saidBrig. Gen. Dale White, Fighters and Advanced Aircraft Program Executive Officer (PEO), who, along with Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, Air Force Research Laboratory commander, leads the Skyborg program. “We have the opportunity to transform our warfighting capabilities and change the way we fight and the way we employ air power.”
Skyborg is one of three Vanguard programs (see separate story in EX2) identified late last year as part of the US Air Force’s Science & technology 2030 initiative. These high priority Air Force capability development efforts come with an enterprise commitment to deliver game-changing capabilities to transform Air Force operations for the future force.
“Autonomy technologies in Skyborg’s portfolio will range from simple play-book algorithms to advanced team decision making and will include on-ramp opportunities for artificial intelligence technologies,” Pringle said. “This effort will provide a foundational government reference architecture for a family of layered, autonomous and open-architecture UAS.”
The Vanguards are also introducing a novel early partnership between AFLCMC and AFRL due to the need to quickly identify cutting-edge technology and transition directly into the hands of the warfighter.
“The greatest technological edge is for naught if the warfighter can’t use it on the battlefield. That makes the partnership between AFRL and AFLCMC so vital to this program. We can’t allow bureaucratic speed bumps to interfere with our mandate to deliver,” White said.