Here’s why this mysterious new Air Force drone contract is such a big deal (updated)
At the same time, at the Air Force Association conference, representatives of another airline said The war zone that they saw a shift in the language of the Air Force away from attractiveness and towards affordability. Asked about it, Fendley said he hadn’t observed this trend himself, but believed it made sense to focus on providing certain capabilities at an affordable price, rather than to focus on the total lifespan of a low-cost device. Platform.
“If we develop, and just choose Valkyrie, we develop an attractive aircraft, that means after a certain number of missions or flights, they would agree if the aircraft did not come back,” he explained. âI can’t design a plane for five flights, can I? “
Fendley also wondered if you would ever want to design airplanes with these kinds of parameters in mind. “So over time that, let’s just use the attriable, let’s say bring in an attriable system that’s good for 50 missions.” Guess what happens over time? Boy, budgets are getting tighter and tighter, we want it to last 75 missions now. Damn, we didn’t design it for that, âhe said.
The war zone has already raised many similar questions regarding the Air Force‘s proposed Digital Century Series concept, which envisioned the rapid development and acquisition of small batches of fighter jets with a relatively short expected lifespan . Public debate on this idea, including by the Air Force itself, has diminished considerably since the departure of its lead lawyer, the former Air Force Deputy Secretary for Acquisitions, technology and logistics, Will Roper, in January.
“Affordable depends on the app, but that sort of thing makes more sense,” Fendley said on the sidelines of the Air Force Association conference. “If the requirement is affordable I would say it’s very clear, then the government says there has to be a design that costs’ a certain amount and it ‘should define what that number is.’
“So you have to design to cost, which is a piece, and then you look at it and say, okay, we’re designing to cost here, but we just figured out that for a dollar more we can add 20% to this part of [the] performance, we should do it, âhe added. âAnd, oh, by the way, we can subtract two percent from that performance parameter and save 20 percent of the cost of this production item, so we should do that. “
Fendley has made it clear that performance per cost metric is something Kratos’ design and manufacturing teams focus on laser. For example, he has said in the past that one of his goals is to reduce the price of a single XQ-58A to around $ 2 million as the production of these drones increases. but still very capable, the jet engines produced by Technical Directions Inc. (TDI), a division of Kratos, have been an important part of the company’s efforts to reduce the prices of its products.
Leveraging new digital engineering capabilities, a growing general trend in the military aerospace industry, to help speed up design and production processes, while keeping costs low, is another part of this puzzle. Kratos’ state-of-the-art digital engineering (DE) framework for high-performance jet UAS will be used to develop, evolve, operate and integrate system-ready technologies and complement its DE framework with careful demonstrations and experiments. on the ground and in flight, “the company’s OBSS press release said. Fendley had previously said The war zone that there was always a critical need to balance working in the virtual space with prototyping in the real world, something other companies have espoused as well.
Overall, Fendley told the Air, Space, Cyber ââconference that he believes Kratos’ core business philosophies will provide different advantages and opportunities compared to its competitors in the future. This would be especially true if the United States’ defense spending remained unchanged or even entered into contracts in the years to come, as there are many indications that this will be the case. He added that much of the operation of Kratos, a relatively small company, has been driven over the years by the need to maximize what it can do with its own internal funding, rather than relying on US government contracts.
âKeep an eye out for affordability and how affordability plays out in the unmanned aircraft arena,â he said. “I think that’s such a key piece, and we’re so focused on it, I think it’s very important.”
Overall, we hope to continue to learn more about the new OBSS and Kratos drone design over time, now that this contract has been awarded. In the meantime, it’s increasingly clear that this program is indicative of an emerging discussion within the Air Force about affordability and what it means, particularly for advanced unmanned aircraft.
Update at 8:35 p.m. EST:
The Pentagon’s daily contract announcement includes an entry showing that General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) has now also been awarded a contract under the OBSS program. Its initial price for the first 12 months of work is valued at nearly $ 17.8 million, and its potential 15-month option period is worth almost $ 32 million.
As with the Kratos agreement, GA-ASI’s contract is also “for the design, development, and flight demonstration in an open architecture aircraft concept to achieve fast and low time-to-market goals. acquisition cost”. Steve Trimble, Aviation weekDefense Editor, also reported that the Air Force’s plan is to select a company to move into a follow-up flight demonstration phase after the initial contract period.
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