Northrop Grumman Unveils Model of New Autonomous Aircraft (by Meredity Roaten)

PALMDALE, Calif. — Northrop Grumman has designed a new autonomous aircraft that it hopes will be the answer to the Air Force’s search for the next-generation of drones that could accompany manned planes into battle.

Unveiled Sept. 8 at Northrop’s facility in Palmdale, California, the Model 437 — a stealthy jet with a 3,000 mile range — is a collaboration between the company and Scaled Composites.

Scaled Composites also revealed a new variant of its Model 401 technology demonstrator that can be operated in autonomous mode.

Executives said the platforms will be offered for two autonomous aircraft technology programs — the U.S. Air Force’s Skyborg and the United Kingdom’s Project Mosquito.

The Skyborg program is one of the Air Force’s top science-and-technology priorities under its “Vanguard” initiative to deliver game-changing capabilities to warfighters. The aim is to acquire relatively inexpensive, attritable unmanned aircraft that can leverage artificial intelligence and accompany manned fighter jets into battle. Contractors are competing for $400 million worth of delivery orders for prototypes.