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USAF selects Anduril and General Atomics for next CCA phase

Anduril’s Fury UAS (above) and the GA-ASI XQ-67A (top) have been selected by the USAF for the next phase of its CCA program. Images: Anduril and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc

With the FY2024 budget now approved, the US Department of the Air Force has selected Anduril and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) for detailed design, manufacture and testing of production representative test articles under the Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program. The two companies will build test articles for the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s (AFLCMC) Advanced Aircraft Division.

The CCA program aims to be a force multiplier, developing a low-cost, modular, unmanned aircraft equipped with advanced sensors or weapons and operating in collaborative teams with the next generation of manned combat aircraft. It is part of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) Family of Systems, a USAF effort to equip the force with crewed and uncrewed platforms that can meet what it terms the ‘pacing challenge’.

“We executed an acquisition and funding strategy for CCA with early operator, technologist, acquirer, and industry teaming to quickly iterate requirements given our fielding timelines,” said US Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. “Continuous competition is a cornerstone at every stage of this program. The transparency and teamwork between industry and government really accelerated how quickly we could mature the CCA program.”

The companies not selected to build these production-representative CCA vehicles – Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman – will continue to be part of the broader industry partner vendor pool, consisting of more than 20 companies to compete for future efforts, including future production contracts, the Department says.

The DAF is on track to make a competitive production decision for the first increment of CCA in fiscal year 2026 and field a fully operational capability before the end of the decade. The DAF’s option exercise decision does not exclude any of the vendors from competing for the future Increment 1 production contract.

Planning for CCA Increment 2 development is also ongoing, with initial activities starting later this year. All current and potential future industry partners from the CCA vendor pool will compete for this follow-on effort.

The CCA program aims to deliver at least 1,000 CCAs, prioritizing cost-effective scalability. With air superiority pivotal to America’s military dominance for more than 70 years, CCA offers expanded fighter capacity (affordable mass) at reduced costs and adaptable timelines.

This option contract award by the AFLCMC follows an initial 6-month phase that culminated in a successful CCA preliminary design review (PDR) earlier this year, said General Atomics.

In February 2024, GA-ASI successfully conducted the maiden flight of the XQ-67A CCA prototype aircraft validating the “genus/species” concept pioneered by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) as part of the Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Platform Sharing (LCAAPS) program. This program focused on building several aircraft variants from a common core chassis. Since then, this prototype for CCA has successfully completed two additional test flights, laying the groundwork for a successful production and flight test program, says General Atomics. The company’s production-representative design is based on the XQ-67A Off-Board Sensing Station developed by GA-ASI for the AFRL.

The DAF announced its intention to pursue CCAs just two years ago. “The progress we’ve made is a testament to the invaluable collaboration with industry, whose investment alongside the Air Force has propelled this initiative forward. It’s truly encouraging to witness the rapid execution of this program,” said Kendall.

The DAF is exploring international partnerships, to include potential Foreign Military Sales, as part of the CCA program.  These partnerships will help provide further affordable mass at scale while driving horizontal integration and interoperability across our international partnerships, says the USAF.

Anduril is expected to build a variant of the Fury autonomous aircraft; Anduril acquired Fury’s manufacturer, Blue Force Technologies, in 2023.

“There is no time to waste on business as usual,” said Brian Schimpf, CEO and Co-Founder of Anduril. “With the CCA program, Secretary Kendall and the Air Force have embraced a fast-moving, forward-looking approach to field autonomous systems at speed and scale.”

Autonomy and affordable mass have been central tenets of Anduril’s approach since its founding in 2017, the company says. Anduril adds it has proven it can deliver highly-performance, next-generation, software-defined capabilities on a timeline and scale that matters.

To complement the CCA contract, GA-ASI says it will continue to conduct a series of autonomy and mission system tests on the MQ-20 Avenger Uncrewed Air System (UAS) and XQ-67A to accelerate the readiness of operational autonomy. These live flight tests will continue to demonstrate the readiness of the full mission capability to support the emerging USAF Autonomous Collaborative Platforms (ACP).

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