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BAE Systems has won a position on a USAF contract to develop an attritable air vehicle for the SKYBORG programme. With a ceiling of $400 million (€339 million), the contract calls for the company to compete to develop a digital design for a UAV capable of autonomous functions.

The SKYBORG programme is intended to create a low-cost autonomous UAV to partner with manned aircraft and increase air combat power. Teamed with manned aircraft, the UAVs will leverage autonomy to disrupt and defeat adversaries in contested environments.

The need to generate combat power faster than our adversaries is critical to address near-peer threats,” observed Ehtisham Siddiqui, VP/General Manager of Controls and Avionics Solutions at BAE Systems. “This award will accelerate the development and deployment of manned-unmanned teaming technologies to give the US Air Force a decisive edge in the battlespace.

The UAVs will be designed with BAE Systems’ autonomous systems, which include sensors and payloads that communicate across a shared network with manned aircraft. This modular and common system approach provides the foundation for rapid updates and integration, to ensure the fleet is fielding the latest capabilities to defend against emerging threats.

The shared network enables manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T), which allows UAVs and manned aircraft to work together and complete missions more effectively. The network extends the reach of the fleet, while keeping the manned aircraft and personnel out of harm’s way. It will allow the UAVs to serve as the eyes and ears for pilots, collecting and sending data from the battlespace to a manned fighter.

An artist’s rendering of the SKYBORG concept UAV. (Image: BAE Systems)

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