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US Air Force to set up experimental squadron to refine Collaborative Combat Aircraft force structure

The Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat at MidAmerica Airport, Illinois. Boeing is using the MQ-28 to experiment UCAV-related technology, and the aircraft may find further use as tactics, techniques, and procedures testbeds. (Janes/Zach Rosenberg)

The US Air Force (USAF) is to set up an experimental squadron in 2024 to experiment with force structure in advance of the Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) acquisition, Thomas Lawhead, the service's assistant deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration, and requirements, told at a Mitchell Institute talk on 15 November.

β€œWe'll start up in an experimental [operations] unit beginning next year that really paws into, how do we actually go about operating our CCAs?” Lawhead said.

The CCA is to be an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) designed to fight in near-peer conflicts. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall revealed earlier in the year that the service intends to purchase 1,000 CCAs to fly alongside advanced fighters.

β€œWhat does the fighter squadron of the future look like?” Lawhead said. β€œIs it a 24 [aircraft] squadron with 12 CCAs or 48 CCAs attached to them as part of the squadron? Are they separate? What is the day-to-day battle rhythm of those CCAs? Do we forward deploy and … keep a small number for tests and training, and then do a predominance [of] our actual crewed-uncrewed training in the virtual arena?” All of those questions and more are what the experimental squadron is intended to address, he added.

β€œ[The] CCA employment will bring a collection of non-materiel considerations that are not familiar to the current force and merit exploration,” a USAF spokesperson told Janes

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