The Air Force has awarded a $40.8 million cost-sharing contract to Composite Engineering Inc., (CEI) for research and development of a disposable unmanned remotely piloted vehicle. The government’s share is $7.3 million and CEI’s share is $33.5 million. The Sacramento, Calif.,-based contractor will design, develop, assemble and test a technical baseline for a high-speed, long-range, low-cost, limited-life strike RPA, according to the contract announcement. The program, being directed by the Air Force Research Laboratory, also will identify key enabling technologies for future low-cost attainable aircraft demonstrations and provide a vehicle for future capability and technology demonstration, the award said. Work is expected to be completed by April 18, 2019. CEI builds advanced aerial targets and contributes to the Air Force’s Miniature Air Launched Decoys. The AFRL project is similar, but apparently unconnected, to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s ICARUS program, which seeks an unmanned aerial system that could deliver small amounts of supplies to remote areas and then disintegrate after unloading.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.