USAF AI Skyborg ACS has Successful First Flight
May 10, 2021
The Skyborg leadership team conducted a two-hours and ten minute flight test
April 29 of the Skyborg autonomy core system (ACS) aboard a Kratos UTAP-22
tactical unmanned vehicle at Tyndall AFB, Florida.
Termed Milestone 1 of the Autonomous Attritable Aircraft Experimentation (AAAx)
campaign, the ACS performed a series of foundational behaviors necessary to
characterize safe system operation. The ACS demonstrated basic aviation
capabilities and responded to navigational commands, while reacting to
geo-fences, adhering to aircraft flight envelopes, and demonstrating coordinated
maneuvering. It was monitored from both airborne and ground command and control
The Skyborg Vanguard team is a unique relationship that pairs Brig. Gen. Dale
White, Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Advanced Aircraft as the
Skyborg PEO, and Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, Commander of the Air Force Research
Laboratory as the Skyborg Technology Executive Officer (TEO). The 96th Test
Wing, under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Scott Cain, serves as the executing
agent for these test missions.
The Skyborg autonomy core system launches aboard a Kratos UTAP-22 tactical
unmanned vehicle at Tyndall AFB, Florida on April 29.
“We’re extremely excited for the successful flight of an early version of the
’brain‘ of the Skyborg system. It is the first step in a marathon of progressive
growth for Skyborg technology,” said White. “These initial flights kickoff the
experimentation campaign that will continue to mature the ACS and build trust in
Milestone 1 is the first step in testing the ACS and begins a sequence of
experimentation events planned over the next several months.
“Through this operational experimentation campaign, AFRL is leaning forward to
get early engagement with the warfighter to deliver a suite of full-mission
autonomy on a relevant timeline,” said Pringle. “AFRL is proud to be developing
this force multiplier for the U.S. Air Force with our partners at PEO Fighters
and Advanced Aircraft and the 96th Test Wing.”
96th Test Wing is well-positioned to integrate and test emerging technologies
like autonomy on various platforms (aircraft and weapons) and has provided
critical infrastructure support and test expertise to Skyborg. Milestone 1 was
the first time an active autonomy capability was demonstrated on an Air Force
test range, and is a first step to integrating these aircraft into a complex
“As we have throughout our history, the Test enterprise is adapting our people
and capabilities to support this rapidly maturing technology, and the execution
of this flight test is a great milestone for our closely integrated development
and acquisition team. Safely executing this test and providing the knowledge
needed to advance the technology is at the heart of what we do. And as always,
we’re highly motivated to help bring war-winning technology to the next fight,”
Follow on events will demonstrate direct manned-unmanned teaming between manned
aircraft and multiple ACS-controlled unmanned aircraft.
The aim of the Skyborg Vanguard program is to integrate full-mission autonomy
with low-cost, attritable unmanned air vehicle technology to enable
manned-unmanned teaming. Skyborg will provide the foundation on which the Air
Force can build an airborne autonomous ‘best of breed’ system of systems that
adapts, orients, and decides at machine speed for a wide variety of increasingly
complex mission sets.