world of aviation logo

US Air Force announces contenders for local ‘loyal wingman’ competition

written by Sandy Milne | July 31, 2020
Boeing unveils new loyal wingman drone at Avalon (Boeing).

The USAF Air Force Life Cycle Management Center has awarded multiple indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contracts to four industry partners to kick start the development of a local ‘loyal wingman’ autonomous vehicle capability.

The aim of the Skyborg Vanguard program is to integrate autonomous attritable unmanned air vehicle (UAV) technology with open missions systems to enable manned-unmanned teaming – this capability will provide a game-changing capability to the warfighter.

The attritable UAV line of effort awarded by this contract will provide the foundation on which the Air Force can build an airborne autonomous ‘best of breed’ system that adapts, orients, and decides at machine speed for a wide variety of increasingly complex mission sets.

The IDIQ went to:

  • Boeing;
  • General Atomics Aeronautical Systems;
  • Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems; and
  • Northrop Grumman.

Brigadier General Dale White, Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft, who, along with Brigadier General Heather Pringle, Commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), serves as the leadership for the Skyborg program, explained, “Because autonomous systems can support missions that are too strenuous or dangerous for manned crews, Skyborg can increase capability significantly and be a force multiplier for the Air Force. We have the opportunity to transform our warfighting capabilities and change the way we fight and the way we employ air power.”

Skyborg is one of three Vanguard programs identified late last year as part of the Air Force Science and Technology (S&T) 2030 initiative. These high priority Air Force capability development efforts come with an enterprise commitment to deliver game-changing capabilities to transform Air Force operations for the future force.

Brig Gen Pringle, added, “Autonomy technologies in Skyborg’s portfolio will range from simple play-book algorithms to advanced team decision making and will include on-ramp opportunities for artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. This effort will provide a foundational government reference architecture for a family of layered, autonomous, and open-architecture UAS.”

The Vanguards are also introducing a novel early partnership between AFLCMC and AFRL due to the need to quickly identify cutting-edge technology and transition directly into the hands of the warfighter.

“The greatest technological edge is for naught if the warfighter can’t use it on the battlefield. That makes the partnership between AFRL and AFLCMC so vital to this program.  We can’t allow bureaucratic speed bumps to interfere with our mandate to deliver,” Brig Gen White added.


Each day, our subscribers are more informed with the right information.

SIGN UP to the Australian Aviation magazine for high-quality news and features for just $99.95 per year