Kratos Completes Second Flight of Tactical Unmanned Aircraft

 - December 9, 2015, 1:13 PM
Shown is a U.S. Air Force BQM-167A subscale aerial target. Manufacturer Kratos is developing tactical UAV . (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Defense contractor Kratos Defense & Security Solutions said it completed the second flight of a self-funded project to build a jet-powered tactical unmanned aircraft system. The November 23 flight at the U.S. Navy’s China Lake, Calif., test range was a collaborative exercise with an AV-8B Harrier strike fighter, the company said.

San Diego-based Kratos, which manufactures aerial targets for the Navy and the U.S. Air Force, describes its Unmanned Tactical Aerial Platform (UTAP-22) as a high-performance jet designed to survive and to operate or deliver payloads in hostile environments. The company reported completing a first flight of 94 minutes’ duration at China Lake as part of its third-quarter Fiscal Year 2015 financial results, a period that ended in late September. It plans three test flights.

The second flight involved “collaborative airborne operations” with a Harrier and demonstrated command and control through a tactical datalink; autonomous formation flying with the AV-8B; transfer of UTAP-22 control between operators in a tactical network; and transfer of control from the network to an independent control link. “The results from this demonstration flight validate the unprecedented ability for a low-cost, unmanned aircraft with fighter-like performance to operate collaboratively with a manned fighter/tactical aircraft through semi-autonomous tasking and autonomous formation/wingman modes,” Kratos said on December 3.

Eric DeMarco, Kratos president and CEO, described the UTAP-22 as the company’s most important tactical unmanned system development. However, the publicly traded company said it would release no additional information on the aircraft “due to competitive and other considerations.”