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USAF, DIU select four companies for ETV project

The US Air Force Armament Directorate (AFLCMC/EB) and Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) have selected four companies to build prototype Enterprise Test Vehicles (ETV), drone prototypes capable of being manufactured cheaply and in large numbers and that can also be test beds for new subsystems and materials.

The DIU and EB have selected Anduril Industries; Integrated Solutions for Systems, Inc.; Leidos Dynetics; and Zone 5 Technologies to develop prototype solutions for flight demonstration in late summer/fall 2024. These vendors were selected from a highly competitive field of more than 100 commercial and dual-use technology company applicants.

Initial flight demonstrations will occur within seven months from the agreement award dates, after which one or more of the most promising prototypes will continue development toward a production variant capable of rapidly scalable manufacture.

“The ETV presents an opportunity to leverage promising ideas from industry to create and refine affordable designs for test capabilities that can be produced on a relevant timeline,” said Andrew Hunter, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Vendors are incorporating commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components wherever possible to mitigate supply chain bottlenecks and to keep costs low. Vendors will also leverage modern design for manufacturing approaches, ensuring air vehicles are not over-engineered for their intended mission, minimize use of expensive materials, and enable on-call high-rate production that is not possible with more exquisite counterparts.

“While the Armament Directorate remains committed to our highly-capable legacy products, we have become convinced that widening the aperture to include more non-traditional aerospace companies offers the best chance at accomplishing our cost-per-unit goals, project timeline, and production quantity goals,” said Cassie Johnson, the Armament Directorate’s ETV Program Manager. “We eagerly anticipate bringing respectable capability to our warfighters.”

To enable future design improvements and rapid integration of subsystems, prototypes are utilizing an open systems architecture reference. Capable of deployment en masse through multiple launch methods, ETVs are intended to create an overwhelming dilemma for any defending adversary, according to the DIU.

“This award is a great example of how we are partnered closely with the Air Force to drive innovation for the warfighter, with the focus, speed, and scale necessary to achieve strategic impact,” said Doug Beck, Director, Defense Innovation Unit. “Together, we are harnessing the power of commercial technology to meet a critical operational need for straightforward, affordable, and quickly scalable autonomous systems in the air.”

Additional ETV government project collaborators and evaluators include Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Special Operations Command (SOCOM), Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM).

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