The US Air Force has released a Call for Proposals for its transformational Skyborg low-cost autonomous Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV) program. The deadline for proposals is 15 June.
The Skyborg Prototyping, Experimentation & Autonomy development (SPEAD) contract, worth up to US$400 million to winners, is part of the USAF’s Science and Technology for Autonomous Teammates (STAT) program under which the service is funding development of a new generation of autonomous ‘loyal wingman’ UAVs. Last year the USAF said it wanted a Skyborg-controlled UAV reaching early operational capability as soon as 2023.
The USAF Call for Proposals states that Skyborg is a transferable suite of autonomous capabilities paired with teamed, autonomous, low-cost platforms to enable expeditionary operations that can generate massed combat power with minimal logistical footprints.
Skyborg has been designated an Air Force Vanguard program to rapidly deliver transformational capabilities to the Department of Defense by marrying technology from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and industry with a transition partner from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. This early pairing enables an accelerated transition from technology development to operational fielding of the first Skyborg-enabled system.
The intent of Skyborg is to integrate an autonomy mission system core and suite of services (developed under a separate Skyborg System Design Agent (SDA) program) with multiple low-cost air vehicle systems, each designed to perform one or more mission types. The Skyborg core will be a best-of-breed combination of industry and government solutions.
Low cost unmanned vehicles are envisioned to augment high-end manned systems through a series of next-generation UAVs that are affordable, effective, quickly designed and produced. While not considered an expendable system, attrition tolerance for these aircraft will be higher than for manned aircraft. These Air Vehicles will develop low cost attritable aircraft designs and manufacturing concepts with a target unit flyaway cost at a small fraction of current manned systems.
In order to be truly affordable, acquisition, operation and maintenance costs would need to be correspondingly very low as compared to current tactical aircraft. There will also be a large need to offer a short development cycle so that variants could rapidly be procured as needed.
The purpose of the Basic ID/IQ is to accomplish the following:
- Conduct research to develop, demonstrate, integrate and transition air vehicle, payload and autonomy technologies and systems that will provide affordable, revolutionary capabilities to the warfighter through the Skyborg program; and
- Develop a family of attritable platforms while inducing competition and driving industry to continue development of technology to support future capabilities and defeat threats.
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