US Unveils Next-Gen Mini Drones

The US Air Force is currently in the process of developing a new generation of unmanned fighters, which are capable of flying as low as 9 meters above the ground to reach their targets or evade enemy missiles. These fighters possess unique capabilities that are not accessible to manned aircraft.

This initiative comes as a response to the increasing costs of existing military aviation and advancements in flight technology. The Air Force aims to modernize its aircraft fleet, which is considered to be the smallest and oldest since its establishment as a separate branch of the armed forces in 1947. The development of these unmanned fighters is also seen as a way to counter China’s military pressure.

The Air Force plans to acquire at least 1,000 of these mini-fighters, with hundreds of units expected to be delivered within the next 5 years. These drones, known as Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA), will work alongside F-35 fighters and the new B-21 bomber to conduct air and ground attacks, gather intelligence, and provide communication support.

With a program budget of $6 billion, major defense contractors such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics, and Anduril Industries are showing interest in developing these unmanned fighters. The Pentagon intends to select two companies in the summer to begin construction.

Utilizing cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence, these drones are capable of performing autonomous flights and adapting to changing battle conditions. They can execute maneuvers that would be impossible for a human pilot, such as flying at speeds of 965 km/h just above the ground.

The Air Force is focusing on keeping the cost of each fighter between $20 million and $30 million, which is significantly lower than the cost of current aircraft like the F-35 (approximately $100 million) or the B-21 (over $750 million). This initiative represents a major test for the Pentagon’s efforts to streamline military programs and reduce long-term budget overruns.

The Air Force’s plan includes producing around 100 unmanned fighters annually, surpassing the current production capacity of General Atomics. Recently, the Air Force successfully conducted the first flight of the XQ-67A Loyal Wingman combat drone, developed by General Atomics. This new drone, designed using automotive techniques, offers a cost-effective and flexible alternative to existing UAVs.

Advancements in unmanned aerial vehicle technology, cost-effectiveness, and the ability to execute riskier maneuvers without endangering human pilots are opening up new possibilities for the US Air Force to maintain military superiority and counter potential threats in the airspace.

/Reports, release notes, official announcements.