UNMANNED

Four win seats on $400M Air Force unmanned prototype & AI program

The Air Force has awarded four companies seats on a six-year program with a $400 million ceiling to develop a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles to use artificial intelligence for making decisions in combat.

Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Kratos Defense & Security Solutions will compete against each other for delivery orders to build the Skyborg prototype drones. Eighteen bids in total were submitted for this downselect, the Pentagon said in its Thursday awards digest.

Leidos is also acting as a system design agent for the program under a $28 million contract awarded to the company in May.

Skyborg is eyed as a family of layered UAVs that become part of a transferable autonomy foundation to enable more teaming between manned and unmanned platforms.

The vehicles should also be “attritable” -- able to be reused several times with minimal maintenance and hence cheaper, which implies they can be deployed aggressively without concern for some losses during a mission.

Skyborg is one of three programs the Air Force gave the Vanguard label to in 2019 as an initiative aimed at integrating technology components across multiple domains to create complex, multidisciplinary solutions.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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