The second phase of awards has been completed for the Skyborg Prototyping, Experimentation and Autonomy Development (SPEAD) multiple indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract.

Awarded by the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC), these awards follow initial awards that saw the selection of Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI), Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems and Northrop Grumman Systems Corp.

AeroVironment, Autodyne, BAE System Controls, Blue Force Technologies, Fregata System, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, NextGen Aeronautics, Sierra Technical Services, and Wichita State University are the latest to be added to the vendor pool.

With these awards, a total of 13 companies will contend for around $400m delivery orders for Skyborg.

An autonomy-focused capability, Skyborg is one of three Vanguard programmes that seek to develop and deliver capabilities to transform the operations of the US Air Force (USAF).

It was identified as part of the Air Force Science and Technology 2030 initiative.

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The programme aims to combine autonomous unmanned air vehicle (UAV) technology with open missions systems and enable the teaming of manned and unmanned systems.

In March last year, Skyborg programme planned to develop a prototype of the autonomous unmanned combat aerial vehicle by as early as 2023.

Fighters and Advanced Aircraft programme executive officer brigadier general Dale White said: “This second phase of awards establishes a diverse and competitive vendor pool by adding several non-traditional and traditional contractors we saw as important additions to the effort.

“The diversity of approaches and backgrounds, allows us to access the best industry has to offer.”

The USAF aims to commence the development of the air vehicle prototype designs later this year.

In July, Kratos Defense & Security Solutions’ subsidiary Kratos Unmanned Systems Division secured a $400m contract supporting the USAF’s artificial intelligence Skyborg Vanguard programme.