The US Air Force (USAF) has launched a competition to design the artificially intelligent software, called Skyborg, that would control its planned fleet of loyal wingman unmanned air vehicles (UAV). The service intends to grant indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contracts worth $400 million per awardee to develop the software and related hardware, it says in a request for proposals released on 15 May. The USAF is looking for technical and cost proposals from companies by 15 June 2020 and intends to award multiple companies contracts, though it may award just one contract or no contracts, based on proposals. Skyborg would be artificially intelligent software used to control the flight path, weapons and sensors of large numbers of UAVs. Automating flight control, in particular via artificial intelligence, is seen as necessary to allow a single person, perhaps a backseat pilot in a fighter aircraft, to command multiple UAVs at once.
With a $740.5 billion budget for national security, the United States continues to be the leading country in terms of combat power. The US Air Force has just signed four contractors to build an unmanned combat aircraft with artificial intelligence (AI) for as much as $400 million. With the initiative to create a low-cost combat aircraft, with modular payloads for a multitude of air and ground-attack capabilities, the Skyborg Vanguard program was created. Skyborg is an autonomy-focused aircraft that will enable the Air Force to operate unmanned teamed aircrafts at a sustainable low cost. The program is undergoing prototyping whereby they are developing an autonomous aircraft which is equipped with unmanned system technologies to support a range of Air Force missions.
The U.S. Air Force plans to have an operational combat drone by 2023. The service plans to build out a family of unmanned aircraft, known as Skyborg, capable of carrying weapons and actively participating in combat. The Air Force's goal is to build up a large fleet of armed, sort-of disposable jets that don't need conventional runways to take off and land. The Air Force, according to Aviation Week & Space Technology, expects to have the first operational Skyborg aircraft ready by 2023. Skyborg will be available with both subsonic and supersonic engines, indicating both attack and fighter jet versions.
Unmanned drones, powered by artificial intelligence, may soon accompany US Air Force Pilots on missions as autonomous wingmen. Both Boeing's F-15 and Lockheed Martin's F-35 fighter jets are being considered for the'Skyborg' drone support program. The scheme would cut down on the amount of people in the jets and could both reduce the risk to pilots and be more economical. Drones can be manufactured for a fortieth of the cost of a new fighter jet and may be guided by the sole pilot inside the nearby fighter plane. To safely manage any such drones, however, AI will need to be sufficiently developed to make it immune to attacks that could exploit its operating features.
In its quest to develop an autonomous unmanned "loyal wingman" system to accompany manned fighters into combat, the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLMC) has handed out contracts to three firms to build prototypes for testing by next summer. The three firms, plus Northrop Grumman, were given $400 million contracts in July that advanced them past the opening phase of Air Force selection. Each firm has extensive experience with UAVs. Kratos has already built the XQ-58 Valkyrie for an early stage of the program, a stealthy drone that aesthetically mirrors the F-35 and F-22 fighters it could one day accompany into battle. Boeing has also built its own loyal wingman, the Airpower Teaming System (ATS), for the Australian military, rolling out its first model earlier this year, and General Atomics recently announced its experimental Avenger UAV, once intended to replace the MQ-9 Reaper, had demonstrated autonomous capability in air-to-air combat drills thanks to a new software upgrade.