The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded Lockheed Martin and Raytheon contracts to continue their work on the Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment program. The goal of CODE is to enable a single pilot to command a team of unmanned aircraft systems while they perform complex missions, including target search, identification, and engagement through the use of collaborative autonomy, according to a DARPA release. Lockheed will receive $7.4 million to perform its work on phase II of the program, which will focus on maturing the algorithm suite required to enable new services, according to a Pentagon release. The total investment in the program thus far will be $11.7 million. DARPA also plans to conduct live flight tests with two actual and several virtual aircraft during the program’s second phase, according to its release. The “potential value of collaborative autonomy among UASs at the tactical edge” was demonstrated During Phase 1, program manager Jean-Charles Ledé said, according to the release. A video of an interface test is available here. The Air Force plans to use autonomous small UASs to reduce the number of pilots it needs, but leave decision making for airstrikes up to the human controllers.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.