The US Department of Defense recently announced a tender for the development of an aircraft controlled by artificial intelligence, known as AI-Piloted. This project, part of the Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) initiative, will involve two private contractors in creating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to bolster the US Air Force’s ranks with at least 1000 new drones.

The CCA project is part of a larger program with a budget of $6 billion, aimed at deploying UAVs that will fly alongside piloted aircraft to provide cover, escort, fire support, and intelligence gathering capabilities.

To qualify for the contract, the proposed drones must be capable of autonomous flight at a minimum altitude of 9.1 meters and reach speeds of up to 966 km/h. These drones must also be able to perform complex maneuvers, protect manned aircraft, carry various weapons for ground and air strikes, and conduct reconnaissance missions.

The Pentagon plans to select two contractors by the summer of this year to produce hundreds of AI-piloted drones within five years. The cost of each aircraft is estimated to range from $10 to $20 million, offering a more economical alternative to costly piloted aircraft like the F-35 fighter and B-21 bomber.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall highlighted the cost-effectiveness and expendability of AI-piloted drones, stating that they can be used for one or two missions before being decommissioned. This strategy aligns with the Pentagon’s goal of creating affordable drones under the replicator program to counter China’s military drone advancements.

Several companies, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics, and Anduril Industries, have expressed interest in participating in the tender. Boeing has already unveiled its concept for the MQ-28 “GHOST BAT” drone, which leverages artificial intelligence to enhance military operations and work in conjunction with existing aviation platforms.

/Reports, release notes, official announcements.