Air Force, Lockheed Martin demo manned/unmanned aircraft teaming

PALMDALE, Calif. The Lockheed Martin Skunk Works, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, and technology contractor Calspan Corp. recently successfully demonstrated manned/unmanned teaming of aircraft aimed at improving efficiency in combat and operational effectiveness for the warfighter.

During the flight demonstration, an experimental F-16 aircraft acted as a surrogate unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), which was tasked with autonomously reacting to a dynamic threat environment during an air-to-ground strike mission.

says that its three main objectives for the demonstration were the ability to autonomously plan and execute air-to-ground strike missions based on mission priorities and available assets; dynamic reaction to the changing threat environment during an air-to-ground strike mission while automatically managing contingencies in the event of capability failures, route deviations, and loss of communication; and use of a fully compliant AFRL Open Mission Systems (OMS) software-integration environment, allowing rapid integration of software components developed by multiple providers.

Effective manned/unmanned teaming during a combat situation, says Lockheed Martin, reduces the high cognitive workload for the flight personnel, which enables the warfighter to focus on creative and complex planning and management. Moreover, says the company, autonomous systems are able to access hazardous mission environments, react more quickly, and provide persistent capabilities without fatigue.

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