The US Air Force has once again reminded of its focus on obtaining guided drones that will fight alongside fifth- and sixth-generation fighters. This was stated by the Secretary of the US Air Force Frank Kendall.
Here's What We Know
The winged drones will be developed as part of the Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) programme. The project is part of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) initiative, which includes the development of a sixth-generation fighter, new weapons, sensors, propulsion systems, electronic warfare systems and other systems.
The US Air Force is expected to buy a minimum of 1,000 CCA drones that will work alongside the sixth-generation manned aircraft and the F-35A Lightning II. At the same time, they will be relatively inexpensive.
The NGAG platform, the F-35 and the B-21 Raider nuclear bomber that made its maiden flight last week are very expensive for the U.S. Air Force. The military service simply cannot afford to buy only these aircraft to cover all its needs, as they cost more than $100 million.
Therefore, the agency is resorting to the CCA project. According to the US Air Force Secretary, one unmanned aerial vehicle will cost 3-4 times cheaper than the fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II fighter, i.e. we are talking about several tens of millions of dollars.
It is difficult to call the exact amount, because it is not clear how the cost of the F-35 is calculated. For example, in January, Lockheed Martin estimated the aircraft without the F135 engine at $69.9 million. At the same time, it was recently reported that the average cost of the fighter in recent production batches is $82.5 million.
If we take into account the latest figures, 25% of the price of the aircraft is about $20.5 million. Thus, the purchase of 1,000 drones will cost the budget of the US Department of Defence $20.5 billion. This is much cheaper than the sixth-generation fighter, which will cost several hundred million dollars per unit.
Source: The War Zone