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Boeing, Lockheed Passed Up for Air Force Drone Program

The program could be worth billions.

The U.S. Air Force has chosen two companies that it will continue to fund as part of its Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, and the decision leaves out some major defense contractors.

The Air Force this week said Anduril and General Atomics will continue on with the program to supply detailed designs, manufacture, and testing of production test aircraft.

Anduril CEO Brian Schimpf praised the Air Force for embracing a fast-moving, forward-looking approach to fielding autonomous systems at speed and scale. He said the decision marks the expansion of the defense industrial base and said Anduril is proud to “pave the way for other non-traditional defense companies to compete and deliver on large scale programs.”

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With Anduril and General Atomics moving onto the next phase of the program, that means Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Boeing will be on the sidelines. But the Air Force said those companies along with other contractors in its industry partner vendor pool will still be competing for future production contracts.

Boeing said it was “disappointed” in the decision.

“While we are disappointed that we won’t be moving forward in this phase of the U.S. Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft program, we are undeterred in our commitment to providing next-generation autonomous combat aircraft for U.S. and global military customers. Work continues on our robust and growing autonomous family, including the MQ-25 Stingray and future derivatives, the MQ-28 Ghost Bat, and a number of proprietary programs we can’t disclose,” the company said in a statement.

The CCA program is focusing on pairing unmanned, autonomous drones with later-generation fighter jets flown by human pilots. The drones will work in tandem with the manned aircraft and they’ll be able to carry customizable configurations of weapons, sensors and other features to best assist on any given mission.

According to Air & Space Forces, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said the service wants at least 1,000 and as many as 2,000 CCAs in the next 10 years. He estimated the drones would cost about $30 million each.

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