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AFRL Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) Program

Triton

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"USAF’s Small UAS roadmap calls for swarming ‘kamikaze’ drones"
04 May, 2016 BY: James Drew New Orleans

Source:
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/usafs-small-uas-roadmap-calls-for-swarming-kamikaz-424973/

If the US Air Force needed to break into places like Iran, North Korea, Russia or China, it would overwhelm those countries' integrated air defence systems with tens of thousands of small and relatively cheap small unmanned aircraft acting as jammers, decoys, cameras and “kamikazes”.

That is according to Col Travis “Flare” Burdine, the air force’s division chief for remotely piloted aircraft operations at the Pentagon, whose office is preparing to unveil the air force’s first comprehensive vision statement relating to smaller unmanned aircraft systems (SUAS).

Unlike the army which uses ground-launched devices like the AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven to keep watch over its brigades, peer over hills, identify targets and create communications gateways between hard-to-contact units, the air force would launch its versions from heavy bombers, and whichever ones have not been struck by an expensive surface-to-air missiles (SAM) would be picked up the back of a Lockheed Martin C-130 turboprop transport aircraft.

“In the olden days we’d say, ‘I need a stealth bomber to get through that’. Now we might say, ‘I need a stealth bomber that’s equipped with the [US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] Gremlins project," Burdine tells Flightglobal at the AUVSI Xponential conference in New Orleans, Louisiana on 3 May.

“I need a stealth bomber that’s going to get close, and then it’s going to drop a whole bunch of smalls – some are decoys, some are jammers, some are [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] looking for where the SAMs are. Some of them are kamikaze airplanes that are going to kamikaze into those SAMs, and they’re cheap. You have maybe 100 or 1,000 surface-to-air missiles, but we’re going to hit you with 10,000 smalls, not 10,000 MQ-9s. That’s why we want smalls.”
 

AeroFranz

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A bit off topic, but...YIKES. This is a very poorly written article. I understand this was probably written at AUVSI in between panels, but it is a bit appalling and lacks proof reading.
 

Triton

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I wonder how much the United States Air Force expects the "kamikaze" drones to cost? AIM-120D cheap?
 

Colonial-Marine

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So will DARPA likely be building off of the ADM-160 or will this be a clean sheet design?
 

bring_it_on

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https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/kratos-breaking-into-the-unmanned-combat-air-vehicle-424991/
 

AeroFranz

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Triton said:
I wonder how much the United States Air Force expects the "kamikaze" drones to cost? AIM-120D cheap?
To a certain extent, airplanes are still bought by the pound. If this has to be affordable, it needs to be small.
Unfortunately, you look at the A2/AD scenario and there's REALLY long distances involved (like 1,000 nmi), so you need lots of fuel. If you look at a cruise missile, they go that far but it's one way only. Granted, they have a big warhead, so maybe you can allocate that mass for fuel and now you have some loiter time.
Then you probably want the platform to carry some weapons and/or sensors, so that's some extra weight. If this weren't bad enough, you want a cheap engine because that's the most expensive item usually. Turns out COTS cruise missile engines are still $300-500k a pop and won't run more than 100 hours without extensive mods. Commercial turbofans are overkill because they're designed for 1000s of hours TBO. And the engine manufacturers won't spend the NRE unless you can guarantee a production run of several hundreds of engines.
I think the services can only achieve an affordable solution if they cut back on range and endurance requirements. Something like an overgrown MALD might be doable. Maybe.
 

harrier

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http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/7449/more-details-on-kratos-optionally-expendable-air-combat-drones-emerge
 

Triton

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Introducing Kratos XQ-222: 3,000mi. combat drone due to fly by May 2018 for AFRL Low-Cost Attritable Strike UAS Demo
Source:
http://aviationweek.com/combat-aircraft/kratos-combat-drones-go-offensive
https://twitter.com/JamesDrewNews/status/828996387903852544
 

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bring_it_on

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Tweeted by @Team_AFRL

Key tech: Low Cost Attritable Aircraft. Program introduces a new genre of low-cost UAVs to assist pilots in contested areas.
 

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zaphd

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bring_it_on said:
Tweeted by @Team_AFRL

Key tech: Low Cost Attritable Aircraft. Program introduces a new genre of low-cost UAVs to assist pilots in contested areas.
Could it be the same aircraft mentioned by Kratos in this flightglobal article? The picture has a strong resemblance to the Kratos XQ-222
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/jet-drone-maker-kratos-reveals-newest-most-capable-436978/
 

bobbymike

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bring_it_on said:
Tweeted by @Team_AFRL

Key tech: Low Cost Attritable Aircraft. Program introduces a new genre of low-cost UAVs to assist pilots in contested areas.
Put a Mach 3 turbojet in there a warhead and you have a good looking strike missile. :D
 

sferrin

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bobbymike said:
bring_it_on said:
Tweeted by @Team_AFRL

Key tech: Low Cost Attritable Aircraft. Program introduces a new genre of low-cost UAVs to assist pilots in contested areas.
Put a Mach 3 turbojet in there a warhead and you have a good looking strike missile. :D
RATTLRS :'(
 

AeroFranz

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bring_it_on said:
Tweeted by @Team_AFRL

Key tech: Low Cost Attritable Aircraft. Program introduces a new genre of low-cost UAVs to assist pilots in contested areas.
This vehicle is AFRL's internal design for LCAAT (Low Cost Affordable Attritable Technologies). Kratos' is the one they ended up selecting for a demonstrator.
This is a separate program from DARPA's Gremlins. For one, it doesn't get launched and retrieved by another aircraft. they share the common trait of affordability.
 

Grey Havoc

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2017/06/14/the-pentagon-is-building-robotic-wingmen-to-fly-alongside-fighter-planes/

Article covers both the UTAP-22 Mako and XQ-222 Valkyrie.
 

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https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/new-kratos-uav-will-enter-production-this-year-440089/

"A secret unmanned air vehicle (UAV) from Kratos Defense and Security Solutions is expected to move into production by the end of this business quarter, Kratos’ chief executive says on 8 August."
...

"The UAV is designed for an anti-access area denied environment and its altitude performance ranges up to 45,000ft, DeMarco says. Kratos has not disclosed the aircraft’s g-force tolerance, stealth profile or range, but says the jet can perform sustained-g turns and weaves. Like other Kratos UAVs, the new aircraft is launched on a railed catapult and recovered by deploying a parachute and floating to the ground."

Let's see...
 

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Secretive new Kratos UAS enters production

A new jet-powered unmanned air system developed by Kratos Unmanned Systems Division (USD) will enter production under a $23 million contract awarded by an unidentified customer, the California-based company announced on 8 January.
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/secretive-new-kratos-uas-enters-production-444693/
 

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Seems familiar: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EADS_Barracuda

But they are moving faster compared to Airbus Defence in terms of development/production.
 

bring_it_on

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Six prototype programs to advance aircraft, EW pod, GBSD technologies


Two programs, including an electronic attack pod and an unmanned aerial system project dubbed "Bloodhound," launched between June 1 and Nov. 30, 2017, Will Roper, the service's assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, wrote.

"Spectral Halo is a Deputy Secretary of Defense-directed effort to prototype airborne radio frequency technology for kinetic effects," Roper said. "This capability addresses challenges with prosecuting adversary targets from standoff."

The Air Force's fiscal year 2019 budget request shows Spectral Halo is a podded asset for which life-cycle prototyping will run from the beginning of FY-18 through the end of FY-22. That program builds on the Air Force Research Laboratory's past proof-of-concept work and "will advance a capability to be used by multi-generation aircraft and also employ multiple domains to disrupt, degrade, and collapse adversarial capabilities," budget documents state.

The service plans to award contracts in the fourth quarter of FY-18 to Herrick Technology Laboratories in Maryland, Northeast Information Discovery in New York, Advanced Geolocation Solutions in Virginia and MITRE Corp. in Massachusetts. It expects to spend $50 million on Spectral Halo prototyping in FY-18 and $26 million in FY-19, according to the budget request.

Roper also mentioned Bloodhound, an unmanned aircraft project that falls under the Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology effort. LCAAT aims to develop small, less-survivable aircraft that can be affordably manufactured in large numbers, and prototyping is expected to run through the end of FY-20.

"Endorsed by U.S. Strategic Command, this aircraft will leverage commercial technology to augment manned systems for missions such as strike while imposing cost on adversaries," Roper wrote.

STRATCOM did not answer questions on Bloodhound by press time (April 5).

Roper added two prototypes were chosen for a rapid development program run by the Office of the Secretary of Defense: high-power microwave prototypes intended to cheaply defend bases from swarms of small unmanned aircraft, and "PlatformNxt," a next-generation avionics architecture described as open, cyber-safe and significantly faster than currently fielded systems.

As Boeing and Northrop Grumman move through the technology-maturation and risk-reduction phase of the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program, the Air Force's program executive officer for strategic systems has also started two prototype projects for the new nuclear missile system, Roper said.

"The Post-Boost Propulsion prototype provides maneuvering capability for the missile prior to reentry vehicle release," he wrote. "The Air Force is developing a computer performance model to characterize operational capability and will conduct representative hardware prototype testing."

Another guidance, navigation and control system prototyping effort will help deliver the intercontinental ballistic missile's reentry vehicles, which carry nuclear warheads, to their targets. Tests will vet sensor characterization, sensor-support electronics as well as attitude and flight control mechanization, Roper said.

Funding for each is built into the GBSD program's research and development efforts, for which the Air Force wants to spend $345 million in FY-19 and $21.7 billion overall.

In his letter, Roper pointed out budget instability on Capitol Hill forced delays to the development programs.

"During this reporting period, the Air Force was operating under multiple continuing resolutions," he said. "Being held to the previous year's budget levels created insufficient funding to execute planned milestones and caused schedule delays to develop. The Air Force plans to continue the prototyping efforts listed and begin others following the enactment of the Fiscal Year 2018 Defense Appropriations Act."

Roper's next prototyping report is due to Congress no later than September.

In March, Roper told the House Armed Services Committee he also wants to prototype new design philosophies to shape the Air Force's adoption of commercial technology.
 

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The AFRL officials launched the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie under the low cost attritable strike demonstrator (LCASD) program.
Source: https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/afrl-sets-first-flight-date-for-xq-58a-450091/
 

zaphd

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fightingirish said:
The AFRL officials launched the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie under the low cost attritable strike demonstrator (LCASD) program.
Source: https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/afrl-sets-first-flight-date-for-xq-58a-450091/
Yes, Kratos got the LCASD development contract in 2016 and unofficially named the aircraft the XQ-222 Valkyrie in May 2017. Last fall they started referring to it as the XQ-58A. In addition to the name another thing that has changed is the wingspan, which has grown from the 22ft mentioned previously by Aviation Week to 27ft in your new article. This could mean an emphasis on high altitude performance and loiter.
 

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that's really breaking news
 

AeroFranz

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I'm skeptical of rail launch and parachute recovery being conducive to high op-tempo.
 

jsport

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Survivability, stealth, the real logistics, and the related real range for all these concepts still appears to render them fanciful. Fighter designs require a fighter to be designed not a toy. HimaT was great except it had no range or necessary payload. Unman a real fighter and deal w/ the 'resource risk' or mount something like performance modded MALD off the wing and taking up space on your fighter. There is no middle ground on the near horizon. IMHO
 

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From Janes regarding LCAAT:

http://www.janes.com/images/assets/318/71318/Bargain_hunt_Air_forces_move_to_embrace_low-cost_UCAVs.pdf
 

zaphd

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AeroFranz said:
I'm skeptical of rail launch and parachute recovery being conducive to high op-tempo.
If we look at cost per flying hour the cost of the JATOs alone adds up. According to budget documents the cost of BQM-177 launch rockets is around 20k each, and the LCASD will be at least twice the takeoff weight. The offsetting factor will be that autonomous/semi-autonomous UAVs don't need to train like manned aircraft.
 

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With similar configurations (excluding inlet design) I wonder if the Scaled Composite Model 401 has anything to do with the LCAAT. I know that the Model 401 was designed for rapid prototyping, but its optional manned concept would allow the development of systems that could be employed in a faster combat version. The Have Raider I and II concepts using F-16's and F-16 Vista have been conducted that has proven the concept of LCAAT, but integrating them into one design would be an interesting project for a vehicle like the Model 401. One of the key ideas behind LCAAT is to 'attrit' the enemy (i.e. to use large numbers of forces to defeat the enemy). With a rapid prototype program many UCAVs could be manufactured and flown (e.g. maybe a 4 or 6 UCAVs to one manned 'control' fighter in a combat formation).
 

Stargazer2006

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Dynoman said:
With similar configurations (excluding inlet design) I wonder if the Scaled Composite Model 401 has anything to do with the LCAAT. I know that the Model 401 was designed for rapid prototyping, but its optional manned concept would allow the development of systems that could be employed in a faster combat version. The Have Raider I and II concepts using F-16's and F-16 Vista have been conducted that has proven the concept of LCAAT, but integrating them into one design would be an interesting project for a vehicle like the Model 401. One of the key ideas behind LCAAT is to 'attrit' the enemy (i.e. to use large numbers of forces to defeat the enemy). With a rapid prototype program many UCAVs could be manufactured and flown (e.g. maybe a 4 or 6 UCAVs to one manned 'control' fighter in a combat formation).
Wouldn't the Model 401 be a little too big and costly for the LCAAT mission? Also it was meant as an OPV from the start, I believe, and I haven't seen any mention of the LCAAT as being an optionally-piloted vehicle.
 

zaphd

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Dynoman said:
With similar configurations (excluding inlet design) I wonder if the Scaled Composite Model 401 has anything to do with the LCAAT. I know that the Model 401 was designed for rapid prototyping, but its optional manned concept would allow the development of systems that could be employed in a faster combat version. The Have Raider I and II concepts using F-16's and F-16 Vista have been conducted that has proven the concept of LCAAT, but integrating them into one design would be an interesting project for a vehicle like the Model 401. One of the key ideas behind LCAAT is to 'attrit' the enemy (i.e. to use large numbers of forces to defeat the enemy). With a rapid prototype program many UCAVs could be manufactured and flown (e.g. maybe a 4 or 6 UCAVs to one manned 'control' fighter in a combat formation).
Don't know about the relevance of Model 401, but there will certainly be carry over from Have Raider. Inside defense has reported (link below, pay site) that the senate wants to accelerate LCASD with extra money and tech from project Avatar, which is the Strategic Capability Office's project for unmanned loyal wingman F-16s.

https://insidedefense.com/daily-news/senate-offers-attritable-uas-program-extra-80-million-speed-prototyping
 

marauder2048

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The question would be if you could host the Have Raider II stack on the pre-Block 40 F-16s.

Lockheed mentioned that the Hybrid Flight Control Computer they developed to implement
auto-GCAS on the analog FBW F-16s could also host auto-ACAS, auto-land, auto-terrain following etc.

If they could come close to QF-16 flyaway cost (~ $4.8 million) it would be a matter of
managing O&S but you do have a huge pool of spares and eligible maintainers from which to draw.
 

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https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/kratos-more-than-doubles-tactical-uav-development-pr-453659/

- kratos currently has seven separate tactical drone projects, though some of them might be similar airframes with one another
- XQ-58A Valkyrie currently in ground tests and looking at a late January 2019 first flight
 

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AFRL Confirms Delay For XQ-58A First Flight


First flight of a demonstrator for a jet-powered unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designed to complement future manned fighters has been pushed back several months, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) confirms to Aerospace DAILY.
The XQ-58A Valkyrie was expected to reach the first flight milestone this fall, but is now scheduled to pass that development hurdle in the first quarter of next year, the AFRL says.

The AFRL offered no comment on the reasons for the schedule change.
 

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I wonder what type of drone was being tested in the Nellis ranges in Oct-2018. I hadn't thought of drones initially until someone sent this, where the 'Loyal Wingman' segment most closely represented what was seen https://lazygranch.com/smoke_trails_over_dreamland.html

https://youtu.be/HPZpp_Y6Er8

The 'drones' appeared to be significantly smaller, isosceles triangle shaped, than the parent aircraft observed flying with them initially, before they broke formation and sped off if different directions.
 

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XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator completes inaugural flight


WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – --
The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems to develop the XQ-58A.

This joint effort falls within the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) portfolio, which has the objective to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft. The objectives of the LCAAT initiative include designing and building UAS faster by developing better design tools, and maturing and leveraging commercial manufacturing processes to reduce build time and cost.

Developed for runway independence, the aircraft behaved as expected and completed 76 minutes of flight time. The time to first flight took a little over 2.5 years from contract award. The XQ-58A has a total of five planned test flights in two phases with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.

“XQ-58A is the first example of a class of UAV that is defined by low procurement and operating costs while providing game changing combat capability,” said Doug Szczublewski, AFRL’s XQ-58A Program Manager.
 

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_GJ8LHUhF4
 

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More info here. I didn't know it was runway independent. How do they recover it without a runway? Does it carry a parachute to lower itself to the ground or does it fly into a large net that catches it?
 
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