Military Embedded Systems

Autonomous aircraft contenders named by U.S. Air Force


January 26, 2024

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

General Atomics Gambit autonomous aircraft, a possible contender for the CCA/Image courtesy GA-ASI

ARLINGTON, Va. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) announced the selection of five companies that will develop autonomous aircraft for the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Anduril, and General Atomics. 

According to information by the service, the CCA program is an initiative by the USAF to create uncrewed, relatively low-observable aircraft that can escort or coordinate with crewed aircraft, aiding on missions such as electronic warfare, suppression of air defenses, communications, or as a flying extra magazine of weapons. Adding these aircraft could provide additional critical “mass” in a peer conflict, expanding the combat force at lower cost than crewed aircraft.

USAF officials requested $5.8 billion for CCAs over the next five years, with $392 million for fiscal 2024; Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in 2023 that 1,000 CCAs would be a "working number" or initial request for CCAs, but added that the ultimate number could double that.

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