19.5.2020

US Air Force launches Skyborg competition, artificial intelligence for loyal wingman UAV

US Air Force launches Skyborg competition, artificial intelligence for loyal wingman UAV – link

Source: Flight Global

Article Headlines

  • 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 UAVs
  • 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 contracts, although it may award just one or none at all, based on the proposals received
  • 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 operator in a fighter, to command multiple UAVs at once
  • In particular, the USAF wants Skyborg software and hardware to control “attritable” UAVs; aircraft with limited lifespans that are cheap enough to be produced in large numbers and could be affordably lost to combat attrition. Those UAVs could be used as loyal wingman aircraft alongside manned fighters, bombers and support aircraft
  • The US Air Force Research Laboratory is leading development of these aircraft through its Low Cost Attritable Strike Demonstration program. That effort has produced the Kratos Defense & Security Solutions XQ-58A Valkyrie, a UAV that has completed several demonstration flights. Boeing and the Royal Australian Air Force also have developed a loyal wingman called the Airpower Teaming System. That UAV’s first flight is expected later this year
  • The initial contract will be used to develop the first integrated Skyborg system, the first to be used in a family of aircraft, says the service
  • Previously, the USAF has said it wanted a Skyborg-controlled UAV reaching early operational capability as soon as 2023

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