Kratos Defense & Security Solutions has secured a $12.6m contract to explore the use of high-speed drones in either fully autonomous or semi-autonomous roles to support fourth and fifth generation fighter aircraft.
The contract was awarded by Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx), in coordination with Stratcom and the Strategic Capabilities Office.
In order to enable the new concept development, the US Department of Defense (DoD) will have to integrate and test DoD, as well as commercial capabilities onto a high-speed drone test bed.
Kratos joined forces with a non-traditional defense contractor and will examine new unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operator interface concepts for controlling multiple high-performance unmanned aerial vehicles.
The unmanned jet aircraft Kratos UTAP-22 has been designed for tactical missions, collaborative missions with manned aircraft and tactical payload operations/delivery.
It is an internally funded Kratos development initiative and has earlier demonstrated the ability to conduct collaborative airborne operations with a manned fighter aircraft, an AV-8B Harrier.
Kratos Unmanned Systems Division president Jerry Beaman said: "The integration of sensors into the UTAP-22 increases the operational utility of the vehicle system and is another forward step in the Unmanned System Division's Strategic Plan to increase the capability and demonstrate the utility of the UTAP-22 in a large, complex exercise.
“Manned / unmanned teaming of tactical aircraft with a UAV capable of tactical speeds and maneuverability will provide the warfighter with an inexpensive force multiplier and unmanned wingman; an unprecedented capability."