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USAF Awards ‘Off-Board Sensing Station’ Drone Contracts

The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has awarded identical $17.7 million contracts to Kratos and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems to develop Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS) drones.

The 12-month contracts come with an additional $31.4 million option for both companies, extending them for a further 15 months.

Off-Board Sensing Station

The OBSS low-cost, highly modular unmanned attritable aircraft will extend a manned aircraft’s sensing range and act as a weapons bay, flying alongside it. In its February notice, the AFRL had described the desired aircraft as “designed for limited life in terms of years, not decades, with no depot maintenance and limited field maintenance considerations.”

“The design and manufacturing of OBSS will incorporate scalable and responsive manufacturing technologies,” the notice stated. “This program will continue to validate low-cost design and manufacturing approaches for the attritable class of aircraft through flight demonstration.”

Other Attritable Projects

The AFRL is already working on a low-cost attritable aircraft program to fly unmanned systems alongside crewed aircraft in combat operations by the next decade.

As part of the project, a US Air Force Kratos-made Valkyrie drone launched another drone from its internal bay during its sixth test flight in March.

The Valkyrie was tested to stealthily communicate data between inflight F-35 and F-22 fighter jets in December last year. 

Similarly, the US Air Force selected four companies under Project Skyborg last year to design a drone prototype by 2026 affordable enough to lose in combat and operable alongside manned aircraft in a wingman role. The four companies: Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems, and Northrop Grumman, are reportedly vying for future contracts worth $400 million under the project.

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