AFRL Awards Development Contract for Fighter Pilot Training UAV

A newly awarded Air Force Research Laboratory Small Business Innovation Research contract will develop an unmanned air vehicle design that supports adversary air (ADAIR) training missions for pilots of Air Force fighter aircraft. [Courtesy: Blue Force Technologies]

The Air Force Research Laboratory has awarded a small business innovation research contract to Blue Force Technologies to mature development of a high-performance unmanned aerial vehicle for use in fighter pilot training.

The yearlong contract has a $9 million initial value with options to complete the design and build of up to four vehicles that would support adversary air (ADAIR) training missions. The award is part of a Strategic Financing (STRATFI) proposal selected by the U.S. Air Force's innovation arm, AFWERX.

"Under the Bandit program, Blue Force Technologies, a small aerospace and defense company based in North Carolina, will mature a high-performance unmanned air vehicle design that pilots of Air Force fighter aircraft can use to train against," AFRL said.

As part of the contract, Blue Force Technologies will mature the vehicle design to critical design level, perform engine ground testing, and validate the design of the engine installation under the technical guidance of AFRL subject matter experts. 

"Options under this contract, if exercised, will complete the design and engineering tasks, produce up to four air vehicles, and complete initial flight testing," AFRL said.

The UAV development is part of a proposed autonomy-based system that would provide ADAIR training for Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps fighter crews, but at a cheaper cost than the current manned capabilities, AFRL 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," Alyson Turri, the AFRL Bandit program manager, said in a statement. "The goal is to develop an unmanned platform that looks like a fifth-generation adversary with similar vehicle capabilities."

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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