The Air Force is anticipating a wide range of vendors for its drone wingmen – Breaking Defense

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An MQ-28 Ghost Bat flying test drone for the Royal Australian Air Force. (Australian Ministry of Defence)

Washington – up to 30 vEndorsement could soon be in the running to build an upcoming Cooperative Unmanned Aircraft (CCA) unmanned combat aircraft, Caesar said the acquisition is in service today, as part of a strategy that seeks to “lower the risk” of losing a bid so more companies can stay in the mix.

“So I think we expect in the not-too-distant future to have upwards of 20 to 30 competitors to provide meaningful cooperative fighter jet capability,” Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter said during a discussion hosted by George Mason University’s Greg. Camille Baroni Governmental Contracting Center.

Aside from building the actual aircraft itself and using its core autonomous technologies, Hunter said the Air Force is already seeing a large number of vendors involved.

Sell ​​20-30Or the group number is “the system itself,” he said. “Within the system, the autonomy piece and the mission systems, we already have 20 to 30 competitors in our pool of vendors that provide capabilities there. So, I would say we’re already working with 35 industry vendors in CCA today.”

The Air Force is seeking to reduce the risks for drones by increasing the number of independent test beds—a problem for industry officials Recently described as a choke point – Via software called Viper Experimentation and Next-gen Operations Model (VENOM). Through VENOM, six F-16s will be equipped with autonomous capabilities, according to an earlier report In Airman Magazine, based on work with the Air Force X-62A Variable Flight Simulator (VISTA).

Related: Inside the private F-16, the Air Force is using it to test artificial intelligence

Hunter explained that the service’s approach to obtaining a CCA relies on constantly driving competition so that there is never a single successful or sporadic bid for any business, especially small sellers who may not always have the financial resources for a larger prime rate.

“Reducing the stakes means more people can participate,” he said, stressing that the contests will not be a “life-or-death struggle” where one winner locks out the government and the seller in a “50-year franchise” that could be difficult for others to break into.

The key to maintaining a viable pool of vendors, Hunter said, is an iterative design approach, whereby back-to-back competitions can provide a platform down the road for more companies along the way.

“If you don’t make it through your first CCA raise—if you don’t get selected—it could be a one-year stumbling block in your business plan. You can come back strong next year and win,” he said.

Air Force officials said they expected to send a plane an initial increase of 1000 CCA, With two drones attached to one fighter in the first tranche of 200 Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighters, plus two drones each of 300 F-35s. Work is underway to develop a concept of operations for how drones can be used in combat, with future applications largely focused on providing more missiles, sensors and electronic attack weapons.

Service leaders say the drones will provide an “affordable mass” of new capabilities by being less expensive than fighters but still able to pack a punch in conflict. The 2024 Financial Service Budget officially kicks off CCA as a fresh start, attached A financing request of $392 million.

Besides the possibility of continuing the decision that impedes the start of the program, Hunter said the prospect of a looming budget deficit would have “devastating” consequences.

Related: Leave the Air Force’s new acquisition proposal in the starting gate

Besides impacts such as salary cuts because the Treasury will not be able to pay its bills and capture credit markets that could affect contractors’ lending, any significant budget cuts will likely come from research and development efforts, Hunter said, as many Priorities from UAVs to NGAD would be in jeopardy.

“There’s a lot of bills you have to pay. R&D is one of the few things you can say, ‘You know what, we’ll take a knee for a moment,’” he said. “So I think you’ll see great success for our research and development, which is now one of our priority areas of endeavor. .”

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