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Five companies to build Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) for USAF

Boeing’s MQ-28A Ghost Bat and the Andurial Fury (top) are believed by commentators to be part of the AFRL’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program. Images: Boeing and Anduril Industries.

Five US companies have been selected to manufacture a range of Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) for the US Air Force. The companies are: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Anduril Industries.

The CCA program, which is understood to form part of the Replicator Initiative announced in 2023, is designed to deliver autonomous, semi-stealthy fast jets in large numbers and at relatively low cost to supplement manned aircraft. The USAF’s aim is for these autonomous aircraft to undertake Electronic Warfare (EW) and Suppression of Enemy Air DefenCe (SEAD) and other missions that may be too dangerous for manned platforms.

According to respected aerospace journal Flight Global the USAF plans to team the CCA with its Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) successor to the F-22 Raptor.

Acting Air Force Undersecretary Krysten Jones confirmed the contract awards in a briefing at Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. However, she did not provide details of the contracts, nor of the designs the five companies would manufacture. The USAF, in its FY2024 budget request, announced plans to spend up to US$5.8 billion ($8.8 billion) over the next 5 years on CCAs.

To the surprise of many, Kratos Defense seems not to have been awarded a CCA contract despite its performance on recent USAF and US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) programs. However, the company said it hoped to be in contract with an undisclosed customer in 2024.

Anduril Industries, which acquired North Carolina-based autonomous aircraft manufacturer Blue Force Technologies in July last year, was selected possibly because of its new Fury Uncrewed Air System (UAS). This is a semi-stealthy Group 5 UAS (unlimited weight, airspeed and altitude) with ‘fighter-like performance’, the company says, and has been integrated with Anduril Industries’ Lattice autonomous control software.

“Anduril is proud to be selected as one of five vendors chosen to develop Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA), the Air Force’s flagship autonomous aircraft program,” said Anduril in a statement. “We commend Secretary Kendall and the US Air Force for their leadership and commitment to integrating new technologies into the force. We are honored to be the only non-traditional defense company selected to be a part of the CCA program.

Details of the autonomous aircraft and other capabilities the CCA players bring to the CCO program have not actually been disclosed by either the USAF or the companies themselves.

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