Autonomous flight testing of co-pilot drones

US Air Force In 2024, it will step up efforts to integrate unmanned aircraft into manned fighter operations.

Joint planning and expansion of the fighter fleet

US Air Force is seeking to speed up the deployment of its fleet of unmanned aircraft, called joint fighters (KCA). These drones They are designed to work in conjunction with F-35 and future next-generation Air Domain platforms. Anticipated missions include attacking enemy targets, surveillance, signal jamming, and acting as a decoy. Initially estimated around 1000 KCAMinister of the Air Force Frank Kendall suggests the final total could be higher.

Further research into autonomous flight and its integration into unit operations is needed before deployment. The proposed 2024 budget would allocate nearly $50 million to testing autonomous software on fighter jets. F-16 through the project VENOM. In addition, $69 million will be allocated to develop pilot units focused on developing implementation tactics and procedures KCA in combat squadrons.

Project VENOM (Viper Experimentation and Next Generation Operations Model) plans to equip six F-16 with standalone software. These fighters, piloted by humans into the aerial experiment zone, will transition to autonomous control to evaluate the feasibility and benefits of the concept. KCA. The goal is to collect data on the interactions between pilots and machines needed to develop better and more advanced software.

Developing tactics and risk mitigation for the combination of drones and manned aircraft

Experimental Operations units will be critical in determining how KCA They can help in missions and in training units for effective use. This approach aims to minimize the risks inherent in pairing autonomous drones with manned aircraft. In a conversation on Center for a New American Securitybased in Washington, Kendall emphasized use Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bats as an experimental aircraft to gain operational experience in this area.

Key aspect in development KCA This is its cost. Air Force He strives for them to be economical enough to be considered “attractive”, that is, to have acceptable losses in battle. It is assumed that KCA They will cost between a quarter and a third of the price F-35approximately between $20 and $27 million.

Several defense companies have already presented various concepts KCA. Although its acquisition will take several years, Air Force expects to have the first batch of production by the end of this decade, and a reasonable amount of production in the field shortly thereafter, according to Kendall.

What is the purpose of joint fighter aviation in the US Air Force?

The joint fighters are designed to fly alongside the F-35 and other advanced platforms. Their purpose is to perform a variety of missions, including attacking targets, surveillance, jamming enemy signals, and acting as decoys, thereby increasing the effectiveness and safety of missions.

How many joint fighters does the US Air Force plan to acquire?

The USAF initially estimated the acquisition of approximately 1,000 Joint Combat Aircraft (JCA). However, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall noted that the final figure could be higher based on operational and strategic needs.

What is Project VENOM and how is it related to CCA?

Project VENOM, a US Air Force experiment, involves loading autonomous software into F-16 fighter jets. These aircraft will be flown by humans into the experimentation area, where software will take over control, facilitating research and development of technologies for the CCA.

How will CCA be integrated into Air Force operations?

CCAs will be integrated through experimentation and the development of specific tactics and procedures. The Experimental Units team will work to incorporate CCA into squadrons, striving for effective collaboration between human and machine pilots.

What is the expected cost of each CCA compared to the F-35?

Each CCA will cost between a quarter and a third the price of the F-35, Secretary of State Frank Kendall said. This suggests an estimated cost of $20 to $27 million per CCA, making them a more affordable and viable option for combat operations.

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