Military

BAE Systems to design expendable Skyborg drone for US Air Force

BAE Systems to design expendab...
A Skyborg drone concept
A Skyborg drone concept
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A Skyborg drone concept
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A Skyborg drone concept

BAE Systems has won an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract worth up to US$400 million to compete to develop a digital design for a low-cost, autonomous robotic combat drone that can partner with piloted warplanes under the US Air Force's Skyborg program.

The latest 5th- and the coming 6th-generation fighters may be remarkable feats of engineering but, for all their capabilities, they share two drawbacks. First, they can cost over US$120 million each, and second, they can take so long from first sketch to entering service that they end up being obsolete before the last one rolls off the assembly line.

For this reason, the Skyborg project is seeking an "attritable" drone to complement conventional piloted aircraft. In other words, it would be an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) that is low-cost enough to be expendable, playing a similar role to the escort destroyers and aircraft carriers built fast and cheap during the Second World War to protect Allied battleships and merchant convoys.

The Skyborg program aims to produce a low-cost drone that is not only an autonomous vehicle, but one that can networked for manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T), which will allow it to use its sensors and payloads to protect the piloted fighter while providing reconnaissance data to magnify the fighter's capabilities.

To achieve this, BAE will use the company's autonomous systems as well as modular and common systems designs that will allow the aircraft to be quickly modified and updated.

"The need to generate combat power faster than our adversaries is critical to address near-peer threats," says Ehtisham Siddiqui, vice president and general manager of Controls and Avionics Solutions at BAE Systems. "This award will accelerate the development and deployment of manned-unmanned teaming technologies to give the U.S. Air Force a decisive edge in the battle space."

Source: BAE Systems

4 comments
gettodacessna
Very interesting. I think it's fair to say that development is complex, but there is no mention on how they address the bureaucracy inherent in releasing a new design. In effect, certification and validation is a much bigger issue sometimes than actually building the aircraft. How do they overcome that to speed up development?
P
If expendable, why bother with cost of landing gear?
Launch from aircraft or truck. If land, then on skids.
anthony88
I know how this ends. The Skyborg develops self-awareness and starts questioning its role as an expendable war machine. It starts disobeying orders and spends its time flying around blowing smoke in the shape of big love hearts in the sky.
Martin Hone
How does this compare with the concept of Boeing's Loyal Wingman ?