Here comes Skyborg.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-15s Could Get Drone Wingmen
The U.S. Air Force has identified the manned fighters that, in coming years, could get robotic wingmen.
A new version of the Air Force’s F-35A stealth fighter, as well as the heavily upgraded version of the F-15 that the flying branch hopes to acquire, both could function as flight leads for the service’s Skyborg wingman drones, Will Roper, the Air Force’s top weapons-buyer, on May 22, 2019 told Defense News reporter Valerie Insinna.
Roper’s statement implies that other Air Force fighter types such as F-16s and older F-35s and F-15s likely won’t function as drone flight leads.
The Air Force is in discussions with Boeing and Lockheed respectively to modify their F-15EX and F-35A Block 4 fighters to accommodate the datalinks and processors from the Skyborg effort, Insinna reported.
Skyborg is the Air Force’s overarching program for developing fighter-style drones that can accompany manned fighters into combat while loosely under the control of a pilot in a manned fighter, a controller aboard a larger support plane or someone on the ground.