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.
The Air Force wants to see if AI-powered autonomous drones can help human pilots better perform their mission. In a press release, the Air Force said it was seeking input from the tech industry in a new AI initiative for autonomous drones it calls Skyborg. Still in its planning stages, the Air Force is looking for market research and concept of operations analysis for Skyborg to get a sense of what technologies are out there for such a fleet. It is seeking to launch protoypes of the autonomous drones as early as 2023. What exactly would the autonomous drones under Skyborg do?
The next year will be pivotal for the Air Force's effort to acquire a new class of autonomous drones, as industry teams compete for a chance to build a fleet of robotic wingmen that will soon undergo operational experimentation. The "Skyborg" program is one of the service's top science-and-technology priorities under the "Vanguard" initiative to deliver game-changing capabilities to its warfighters. The aim is to acquire relatively inexpensive, attritable unmanned aircraft that can leverage artificial intelligence and accompany manned fighter jets into battle. "I expect that we will do sorties where a set number are expected to fly with the manned systems, and we'll have crazy new [concepts of operation] for how they'll be used," Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Will Roper said during an online event hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. The platforms might even be called upon to conduct kamikaze missions.
An MQ-9 Reaper assigned to the 214th Attack Group, Arizona Air National Guard, flies over Michigan. The U.S. Air Force wants a new hunter-killer drone to replace its current fleet of 306 propeller-driven MQ-9 Reapers. And it could end up including a version of the service's Skyborg artificial intelligence. Where the Reaper is pretty dumb, the new drone could be very clever. The Air Force on June 3 released a request for information to the aerospace industry for a next-generation unmanned intelligence-strike platform.