The small business innovation research contract was won by North Carolina-based Blue Force Technologies.
It was awarded after a strategic financing (STRATFI) proposal was selected by the USAF programme Afwerx. The initiative carries an initial value of $9m and options to develop up to four UAVs.
Under the contract, Blue Force Technologies will develop a high-performance UAV design that can be used by USAF fighter aircraft pilots for training.
The use of UAVs will enable Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighter jet crew to undergo adversary air training at reduced costs.
In 12 months, the programme is expected to complete the critical design level, perform engine ground testing and validate the design to support engine installation.
AFRL subject matter experts will provide technical guidance to the development.
If the options are exercised, the programme will further advance to complete design and engineering tasks, produce up to four air vehicles and conduct initial flight testing.
AFRL Bandit programme manager Alyson Turri said: “These small unmanned ADAIR systems can be flown in training scenarios so that fighter pilots can train against tactically relevant adversaries in threat representative numbers.
“The goal is to develop an unmanned platform that looks like a fifth-generation adversary with similar vehicle capabilities.”
The Bandit programme seeks to deliver an autonomous air vehicle equipped with mission payloads and sensors that can help in transforming adversary air training.
Earlier this month, LinQuest secured a task order to support AFRL’s Skyborg Vanguard Programme.