Skyborg program

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The U.S. Air Force on Thursday awarded contracts to Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Kratos to build Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled Skyborg drone that will team up with a human in the cockpit.

Each of these companies was awarded an n indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract worth up to $400 million. “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,” Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) said in a release.

The aim of the Skyborg Vanguard program is to integrate autonomous attritable unmanned air vehicle (UAV) technology with open missions systems to enable manned-unmanned teaming. This will provide a game-changing capability to the warfighter. The attritable UAV line of effort awarded by this contract will provide the foundation on which the Air Force can build an airborne autonomous 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,” said Brig. Gen. Dale White, Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft, who, along with Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, Commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), serves as the leadership for 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 identified late last year as part of the Air Force Science and Technology (S&T) 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 (AI) technologies,” said Pringle. “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.


Boeing
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems
Northrop Grumman Systems

have each been awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts with a shared ceiling of $400,000,000 for all subsequent competitively selected delivery orders in support of the Skyborg Vanguard Program.

Skyborg is an autonomous attritable aircraft capable of achieving a diverse set of missions to generate massed combat power; delivering a future Air Force which can deter, blunt and defeat peer adversaries. The Skyborg prototyping, experimentation and autonomy development contract will be used to deliver missionized prototypes in support of operational experimentation and develop the first Skyborg air platform with modular hardware and software payloads that will incorporate the Skyborg autonomy core system and enable manned/unmanned teaming. The locations of performance are to be determined at the order level and are expected to be completed by July 2026.

These awards are being made as a result of a competitive acquisition and 18 offers were received. No funds are obligated on the awards and funding will be provided on each individual order. Air Force Life Cycle Management, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity.
 
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jsport

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We have all read this story before, UCRAVs cost big, these Wingmen are not ever going to be attritable, they cost too much. The wingman UCRAV will need to deploy even smaller genuinely attritable UCRAVs to be anywhere near cost effective.

These swarms could conceiveably be recoverable and thus reloadable and refuelable. Leaving swarms of ones tech laying all over the battlefield is not a good idea.
 

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AeroVironment
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have been awarded a $400,000,000 shared ceiling, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contracts for all subsequent competitively selected delivery orders in support of the Skyborg Vanguard Program. These contracts provide for Skyborg prototyping, experimentation and autonomy development, used to deliver missionized prototypes in support of operational experimentation. Skyborg is an autonomous attritable aircraft capable of achieving a diverse set of missions to generate massed combat power. Work will be performed in various locations around the U.S., and is expected to be complete by July 2026.

 

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We have all read this story before, UCRAVs cost big, these Wingmen are not ever going to be attritable, they cost too much. The wingman UCRAV will need to deploy even smaller genuinely attritable UCRAVs to be anywhere near cost effective.

These swarms could conceiveably be recoverable and thus reloadable and refuelable. Leaving swarms of ones tech laying all over the battlefield is not a good idea.

giphy-downsized.gif
 

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General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) said today it will modify its Avenger Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) with upgraded datalinks and Skyborg software.

In a statement, the company said the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) selected it to support the Skyborg Vanguard Program.

The Skyborg project is an Air Force Vanguard program developing unmanned combat aerial vehicles intended to accompany a manned fighter aircraft. Skyborg will become the foundation of Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning (ML) autonomous capabilities for a family of future U.S.A.F. unmanned combat aerial vehicles.

GA-ASI said it will modify two of its company-owned Avenger RPA with upgraded datalinks and the core Skyborg System Design Agent (SDA) software, as well as other payloads. These Avengers will then be used as part of various experimentation events in 2021 and 2022, which will enable manned aircraft to control Avengers while in flight and relay specific information between the manned and unmanned aircraft. Flights will be conducted from GA-ASI flight centers in Southern California.

 

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One drone type with multiple mission sub-types!?! What a novel idea the USAF has come up with.
 

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Given the sheer number of contracts that have been awarded, I would be surprised if it is just one drone type that is reconfigured for various missions. IMHO, more likely that it will be a portfolio of drones sharing a common architecture.
 

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The Air Force is planning to test Skyborg, a gateway prototype and other emerging technologies for joint all-domain command and control during an Orange Flag exercise this June, according to a notice the service issued Thursday.

The Air Force's 412th Test Wing hosts Orange Flag events three times each year to focus on technical integration of capabilities at varying technology readiness levels. Most recently, the Air Force combined an Orange Flag exercise with a Black Flag experiment earlier this month to integrate sensors, tactical networks and JADC2 nodes across the military services.

It's unclear if the Air Force will perform the long-awaited first flight test of Skyborg drones during the upcoming the event this June or evaluate the vehicles, autonomy software or other components of the program in another way. The notice also doesn't indicate if the Air Force is planning to integrate the gateway prototype with a Skyborg aircraft.

Boeing, General Atomics and Kratos have contracts with the service to deliver aircraft this spring in preparation for the first flight test this summer. The semi-autonomous vehicles are intended to use artificial intelligence to perform missions and collaborate with manned aircraft nearby.

A communications gateway, meanwhile, is one of the key technologies the Air Force has been experimenting with to ensure seamless information sharing between fighter jets for JADC2 operations. The service has already flown a prototype built by Northrop Grumman on a Kratos-built XQ-58A Valkyrie and is expected to demonstrate the capability on an aerial refueling tanker as well.

 

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During a two-hour and 10 minute flight test held April 29 at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, a UTAP-22 equipped with the Skyborg autonomy core system performed a serious of basic flight maneuvers to demonstrate the safe operation of the system, the Air Force stated in a May 5 news release.
The autonomy core system, or ACS, is a package of hardware and software that effectively acts as the brains of the Skyborg aircraft, allowing the drone to conduct operations without the need of a human pilot to physically fly the aircraft.
“The ACS demonstrated basic aviation capabilities and responded to navigational commands, while reacting to geo-fences, adhering to aircraft flight envelopes, and demonstrating coordinated maneuvering,” the Air Force said in a news release.

 

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The goal of the Skyborg test was to demonstrate an open, modular architecture which can autonomously aviate, navigate and communicate safely in a manned-unmanned environment. Autonomous systems like Skyborg can significantly increase capability and be a force multiplier for the U.S. Air Force.

“This was the first known testing of an unmanned vehicle operated autonomously in a large force test event,” said Maj. Daniel Prudhomme, Orange Flag Operations Director.

Tests occurred in geographically separated locations within the R-2508 complex in California and the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range in Florida.

Test flag collaboration included the preparation for Project Convergence, the U.S. Army’s contribution to Joint All Domain Command and Control.

 

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The Air Force conducted a second flight test of the robot pilot known as Skyborg, which autonomously flew a General Atomics MQ-20 Avenger drone June 24.
The event comes about two months after the first flight of Skyborg autonomy core system (ACS) aboard the Kratos UTAP-22 Mako, and proves that the system can be used to pilot multiple types of unmanned aircraft.
“Flying the Skyborg ACS on platforms from two different manufacturers demonstrates the portability of the government-owned autonomy core, unlocking future multi-mission capabilities for the Joint Force,” said Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle, commander of Air Force Research Laboratory.

 

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“Flying the Skyborg ACS on platforms from two different manufacturers demonstrates the portability of the government-owned autonomy core, unlocking future multimission capabilities for the joint force,” Air Force Research Laboratory commander Maj. Gen Heather L. Pringle said in a press release about the experiment.

The ACS will also be used experimentally on Boeing’s stealthy Airpower Teaming System drone, developed with Australia. White said the Boeing airplane will fly with ACS next year.
 

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Northrop Grumman unveiled the Scaled Composites Model 437 on Sept. 8 as a low-cost, unmanned aircraft system (UAS) derived from the company’s four-year-old, manned Model 401 demonstrator. The Model 437, which remains a paper concept, gives Northrop a candidate design as the U.S. and allied

 

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View attachment 663957

Northrop Grumman unveiled the Scaled Composites Model 437 on Sept. 8 as a low-cost, unmanned aircraft system (UAS) derived from the company’s four-year-old, manned Model 401 demonstrator. The Model 437, which remains a paper concept, gives Northrop a candidate design as the U.S. and allied

They always manage to get that Scaled air about their designs.
 

jsport

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View attachment 663957

Northrop Grumman unveiled the Scaled Composites Model 437 on Sept. 8 as a low-cost, unmanned aircraft system (UAS) derived from the company’s four-year-old, manned Model 401 demonstrator. The Model 437, which remains a paper concept, gives Northrop a candidate design as the U.S. and allied

They always manage to get that Scaled air about their designs.
and yet NG has plenty of highest dynamic maneuver BWB designs, as well as the Swift Engineering KillerBee BWB.
 

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