General Atomics announced that two of their Avenger drones will be used in 2021 and 2022 to test teaming with fighter jets.
They will be fitted with Skyborg System Design Agent (SDA) software and other payloads, which will enable them to exchange information with and be controlled from manned aircraft.
In December 2020, the company, together with Boeing and Kratos, was selected for further participation in United States Air Force (USAF) Skyborg Vanguard program, designed to develop a loyal wingman – an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to accompany fighter jets into battle.
The goal of the program is to create a family of cheap, high-performance drones. Boeing and Kratos have presented their designs on the concept earlier, with the Airpower Teaming System (ATS) and XQ-58 Valkyrie, respectively.
Earlier in 2020, General Atomics presented a concept called Defender – Avenger UAV equipped with air-to-air missiles.
One of the goals of Skyborg is to create an attributable aircraft that could be manufactured in large quantities, as well as easily sacrificed to protect manned airplanes. Boeing and Kratos claim that their entries cost $2 million apiece, while the cost of one Avenger UAV is between $12 million and $15 million.
One of the main selling points of the Avenger might be the fact that it is already developed and tested. According to General Atomics Aeronautical Systems president David R. Alexander, their drone is “well understood and has undergone more than a decade of research and design,” giving the company an ability to easily modify it to test conditions.