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Air Force Seeks Info on Next-Gen Combat Drone

The U.S. Air Force has asked industry for information on a next-generation unmanned aircraft system with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance functions and strike capabilities.

A request for information posted Wednesday says the service is seeking a follow-on system to the General Atomics-built MQ-9 Reaper drone, which is planning for end-of-service life, and will use the responses from the RFI to inform the acquisition strategy for a medium-altitude UAS with ISR and strike functions.

The Air Force expects initial deliveries to kick off in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2030 and the unmanned platform to reach initial operational capability by the third quarter of FY 2031.

The military branch is interested in potential platforms that integrate advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomy, open mission systems, attritable technology and digital engineering. It also plans to conduct multiple competitions for the air vehicle, ground control stations and automated ISR sensors and data exploitation platforms that comply with open architecture principles.

Interested stakeholders are encouraged to provide information on the RFI’s three focus areas: future medium-altitude UAS ISR/strike solutions; innovative development and business practices; and digital engineering initiatives.

Responses to the request are due July 15.

Defense News reported the Air Force earlier launched the MQ-X program to find a replacement for MQ-9 but decided to cancel the initiative in 2012.

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