USAF sets sights on Skyborg prototype by 2026
Four companies have been selected to design a new autonomous UAV prototype called Skyborg for the USAF by July 2026.
Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems and Northrop Grumman will also compete for future delivery orders worth up to $400 million.
A total of 18 bidders entered the competition for the Skyborg prototyping, experimentation and autonomy development contract.
The aim is to deliver ‘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 DoD announced in a 23 July contract notice.
Skyborg must be affordable enough to withstand combat losses (‘attritable’ in DoD jargon) but also sufficiently capable to operate alongside manned aircraft in a wingman role (pictured). In the short term, the USAF wants to see Skyborg demonstrated with a manned fighter, but ultimately it envisages a family of AI-based UAVs that can adapt intelligently and fully autonomously to fast-changing battlefield conditions.
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