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US Air Force awards GA-ASI, Kratos contract options for further Skyborg work

The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) and Kratos contract options for work on the service's Skyborg science and technology (S&T) programme, according to a 16 August service statement.

Kratos, which is developing the XQ-58A Valkyrie unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), received a contract option valued up to USD13.2 million. GA-ASI, which is providing a modified MQ-20 Avenger jet-propelled UAV, received an award option that could be worth as much as USD7 million. On 2 July, for the first time, GA-ASI used the Avenger equipped with a Lockheed Martin Legion Pod modular infrared search-and-track (IRST) system to autonomously track and follow targets of interest.

The efforts funded through these contract options will advance the integration of the Autonomous Core System (ACS) along with continued operational experimentation through fiscal year (FY) 2022. USAF spokesman Brian Brackens said on 17 August that the phases exercised are in support of an operational experimentation campaign. Future operational campaigns, he said, will focus on maturing the ACS and exercise objectives will be dependent upon operator feedback and requirements.

The two aircraft will demonstrate future operational capabilities through the teaming of manned and unmanned platforms at large force test events, which will provide critical information and the insight necessary to shape a future programme of record. The USAF is planning to transition its Skyborg effort to a programme of record in FY 2023, Brigadier General Dale White, programme executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft, was quoted by the service as saying.

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