Two Prototypes Selected for Air Force Collaborative Combat Aircraft Program

A computer generated rendering of a prototype Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA). (Image: GA-ASI)

The U.S. Air Force has selected Anduril and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) to continue into the next phase of detailed designs, manufacture, and testing of production representative test articles for the Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program.

The goal for the Air Force's CCA program is to develop a new generation of autonomous drones that can operate collaboratively with crewed fighter jets and other aircraft under the broader Next Generation Air Dominance  Family of Systems. According to an April 24 press release, the companies that were not selected to build production representative CCA vehicles will continue to be part of the broader industry partner vendor pool consisting of more than 20 companies to compete for future efforts, including future production contracts.

General Atomics and Anduril were selected from a pool of five companies that were working on the initial phase of CCA designs that also included Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

“Just over two years ago, we announced our intent, as part of our Operational Imperatives, to pursue collaborative combat aircraft. Now, following the enactment of the fiscal year 2024 budget, we're exercising option awards to two companies to construct production representative test articles. The progress we've made is a testament to the invaluable collaboration with industry, whose investment alongside the Air Force has propelled this initiative forward. It's truly encouraging to witness the rapid execution of this program,” Secretary of the Air Force, Frank Kendall, said in a statement.

Kendall recently provided major updates and the Air Force's vision for the CCA program during an appearance at the Air and Space Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in February. During that appearance, Kendall noted that the Air Force plans to field several different types of CCAs that are capable of carrying out a wide range of missions, including to serve as decoys or to provide jamming, strikes or surveillance.

Also in February, GA-ASI successfully conducted the maiden flight of the XQ-67A CCA prototype aircraft validating the “genus/species” concept pioneered by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) as part of the Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Platform Sharing (LCAAPS) program. This program focused on building several aircraft variants from a common core chassis. Since then, this prototype for CCA has successfully completed two additional test flights, laying the groundwork for a successful production and flight test program. GA-ASI’s CCA production representative design is based upon the XQ-67A Off-Board Sensing Station developed by GA-ASI for the AFRL.

Mike Atwood, Vice President of Advanced Programs for GA-ASI, in a statement commenting on the award, said the CCA program "redefines the future of aviation and will shape the USAF acquisition model to deliver affordable combat mass to the warfighter at the speed of relevancy."

The CCA program aims to deliver at least 1,000 CCAs, prioritizing cost-effective scalability. The Air Force is on track to make a competitive production decision for the first increment of CCA in fiscal year 2026, and field a fully operational capability before the end of the decade.

“There is no time to waste on business as usual. With the CCA program, Secretary Kendall and the Air Force have embraced a fast-moving, forward-looking approach to field autonomous systems at speed and scale,” said Brian Schimpf, CEO and Co-Founder. “We are honored to be selected for this unprecedented opportunity, which signals a demand for continued expansion of the defense industrial base."