Aiming high: USAF plans for Collaborative Combat Aircraft and Next-Generation Air Dominance platforms

by Zach Rosenberg

Boeing NGAD conceptual art. The USAF's NGAD programme is run in parallel to its CCA programme. (Boeing)

The US Air Force (USAF) is planning for a fleet of 1,000 Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCAs) and 200 Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighters, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said in a speech on 7 March at the Air Forces Association's Air Warfare conference.

“I have recently given our planners a nominal quantity of Collaborative Combat Aircraft to assume for planning purposes. That planning assumption is 1,000 CCAs,” said Kendall. “This figure was derived from assuming two CCAs for [each of] 200 NGAD platforms and [an] additional two for each of 300 [Lockheed Martin] F-35s for a total of 1,000.”

“This isn't an inventory objective, but a planning assumption to use for analysis of things such as basic organisational structures, training and range requirements, and sustainment concepts,” Kendall added. “The CCAs will complement and enhance performance of our crewed fighter force structure. They will not impact the planned crewed fighter inventory.”


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UK's swarming drone rollout stymied by ‘competing resource priorities'

by Gareth Jennings

An artist's conceptualisation of a swarming drone capability being developed by 216 Squadron. However, since being formed in 2020, the unit, which is tasked with testing future drone swarm technology, has completed no tests or trials either in-house or with industry, the government has disclosed. (Leonardo)

The United Kingdom's effort to develop and field an unmanned ‘swarming drone' capability is being stymied by “competing resource priorities”, the government disclosed on 4 March.

Answering questions in the House of Commons, Minister of State for Defence Procurement at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) James Cartlidge said the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) 216 Squadron had performed no ‘swarming drone' tests or trials as resources had been diverted elsewhere.


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GEOST bets on focal plane, edge computing capabilities for PWSA fire control

by Carlo Munoz

An artist's rendition of Sierra Space's T2TL low Earth orbit satellite prototype for the PWSA. (Sierra Space)

Arizona-based sensor payload company GEOST is betting big that improved focal plane fidelity, coupled with artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled imagery processing at the edge, will be the solution for the new fire-control payload being developed for the Pentagon's Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA).

GEOST – a subsidiary of LightRidge Solutions – and the Space Development Agency (SDA) in February reached a deal for GEOST to develop and produce 16 fire-control mission payloads for Tranche 2 Tracking Layer (T2TL) of the PWSA.

The PWSA payload contract “is a transformational win” for the GEOST team, according to Bill Gattle, CEO of LightRidge Solutions.

The payload development deal “does open up new markets … proving that some of the things we have done, at a smaller scale, we can now do at a larger scale”, he said during an early February interview with Janes .


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General Atomics XQ-67A Off-Board Sensing Station conducts first flight

by Zach Rosenberg

The XQ-67A in flight (location unknown). (GA-ASI)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has flown the XQ-67A unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the first time, the company announced on 29 February.

“Flight demonstration of this system is a major first step towards showing the ability to produce affordable combat mass,” said Trenton White, Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL's) Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS) programme manager, in a statement announcing the flight.

The flight took place on 28 February at GA-ASI's Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility, outside Palmdale, California.

It comes a year after the AFRL selected GA-ASI to build the XQ-67A under the OBSS programme, intended to result in a UAV that could fly ahead of manned aircraft and pass data back, effectively extending their ability to detect and track targets.

“OBSS is the first aircraft type built and flown using a common core chassis developed by GA-ASI that promotes commonality across multiple vehicle types,” said Michael Atwood, GA-ASI vice-president of advanced programmes.


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https://www.janes.com/defence-news/air-platforms/latest/aiming-high-usaf-plans-for-collaborative-combat-aircraft-and-next-generation-air-dominance-platforms

The US Air Force (USAF) is planning for a fleet of 1,000 Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCAs) and 20...

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