Aurora Flight Sciences’ Orion remotely piloted aircraft recently completed its first flight, announced the company. The test of the long-endurance RPA took place on a range in the western United States on Aug. 24, states the company’s Sept. 17 release. During the three-and-a-half-hour flight, Orion reached a maximum altitude of 8,000 feet above mean sea level, according to the company. The company is developing Orion under Air Force sponsorship as part of a Defense Department joint capability technology demonstration. The long-endurance RPA is designed for information-gathering and communications-relay roles. Orion will be able to fly for five days with a 1,000-pound payload at 20,000 feet in altitude, according to the company’s website. It can also carry munitions on its wing hardpoints.
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.