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U.S. Air Force Shopping Around For “Skyborg” Drone Prototypes

The Air Force is apparently already impressed with the XQ-58A Valkyrie being developed by San Diego-based Kratos Defense.

Contracts are being solicited by the U.S. Air Force for a Skyborg drone expected to be in full service by 2023. According to Col. Dale White, who heads the Advanced Aircraft Program that’s running the program to launch the next generation of unmanned aircraft, the winning candidates might be selected before the fall.

Here’s What The Airforce Wants To See In Skyborg

What the Air Force hopes will be in those bids will be how Skyborgs will be more advanced than the current drones. That includes aerial missions without jeopardizing manned jet flight paths, staying clear of ground-based structures and uneven terrain and automatically take-off and land.

More ambitions objectives on the Air Force wish list include a series of functions that can be performed by future aircraft with built-in artificial intelligence software. These include responding to directions provided by manned fighter craft, run reconnaissance missions, launch airstrikes and provide a hub for aircraft to talk to each other, regardless of what onboard communications devices are being used.

So Far, The Valkyrie Has Been Impressive

While the official decisions on which contractors make the cut are several months away, the Air Force is apparently impressed with the XQ-58A Valkyrie, being developed by San Diego-based security technology company Kratos Defense.

It currently is collaborating with the Air Force Research Laboratory to create relatively cheap and advanced drones that will allow for mass production so it will be easier to replace those lost in action. So far, the Valkyrie has had four test-flight sessions and will enter an Air Force-run battle management system series of experiments this year.

Other Program Contenders Include …

Boeing—which has been working on its Loyal Wingman drone—and Lockheed Martin have publicly expressed interest in throwing their hats into the Skyborg Ring. Additional companies like General Atomics and Northrop Grumman haven’t confirmed their decision to submit designs.

Details on the value of the contracts aren’t widely known, although the Skyborg is one of three major programs the Air Force want funding for, to the tune of $157.6 million. That doesn’t include an additional $25 million the Air Force is seeking to cover Skyborg costs via what it calls the “unfunded priorities list.” Stay tuned for details.


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