The Air Force has awarded Kratos Defense & Security Solutions and General Atomics matching $17.7M contracts to develop drones that act as sensor extensions as well as secondary weapons bays for manned fighter jets – an ‘off-board sensing station’ (OBSS) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS). The project is in support of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Autonomous Collaborative Platforms (ACP) technology maturation portfolio.
The off-board sensing station vehicle is expected to be an affordable, highly modular, conventional takeoff and landing jet-powered drone that will extend a manned aircraft’s sensing range and act as a weapons bay, flying alongside it. In a notice from earlier this year, the AFRL described the desired aircraft as “designed for limited life in terms of years, not decades, with no depot maintenance and limited field maintenance considerations.”
“The design and manufacturing of OBSS will incorporate scalable and responsive manufacturing technologies,” the notice stated. “This program will continue to validate low-cost design and manufacturing approaches for the attritable class of aircraft through flight demonstration.”
Steve Fendley, president of Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, said: “Our industry leading high performance per cost family of tactical and target unmanned aerial systems continues to grow, further enabling our economies of scale across the life cycle of our entire unmanned systems portfolio.Kratos’ range of UAS and quantities (mass to the fight) will help to maintain American dominance in the air by bending the cost curve to enable the US to acquire and employ large numbers of aircraft that challenge our adversary and force them to recalculate their options. Our team is extremely proud to be selected to design and develop the OBSS platform.”