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Defense and Intelligence

US Air Force, Kratos Conduct First Safety Demonstration of Skyborg Aircraft

US Air Force

US Air Force, Kratos Conduct First Safety Demonstration of Skyborg Aircraft

The Air Force has conducted a flight test of a Kratos UTAP-22 Mako “loyal wingman” air vehicle equipped with a custom-built autonomy system.

The two-hour safety demonstration was the first Skyborg test conducted on an Air Force test range. The Skyborg program is aimed at building a family of autonomous combat drones for use in missions deemed too dangerous for human pilots, the Air Force said Wednesday.

During the test at Tyndall Air Force Base in Flordia, the UTAP-22 performed basic flight maneuvers, responded to navigational commands, responded to geofences and demonstrated coordinated maneuvering.

The UTAP-22 was equipped with a Skyborg “autonomy core system,” which serves as the central processing system of the aircraft. The ACS was designed to allow the drone to conduct operations without a human pilot.

Dubbed Milestone 1, the test is the first in a series of experiments that the Air Force plans to conduct over the next several months.

Gen. Heather Pringle, Skyborg technology executive officer at the Air Force Research Laboratory, said the Skyborg team will work with warfighters to gain feedback early in the experimentation phase.

The Air Force wants the Skyborg drones to eventually be capable of operating alongside tactical aircraft such as the F-35 and F-15 EX, C4ISRNET said.

Kratos was one of the manufacturers chosen to provide prototypes for the ACS, the others being Boeing and General Atomics.

The Air Force also selected the following companies to work on different aspects of Skyborg: AeroVironment, Autonodyne, BAE Systems Controls, Blue Force Technologies, Fregata Systems, Lockheed Martin, NextGen Aeronautics, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Technical Services and Wichita State University.

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