Air Force to test Skyborg, gateway prototype during Orange Flag in June

By Sara Sirota / March 11, 2021 at 9:09 AM

The Air Force is planning to test Skyborg, a gateway prototype and other emerging technologies for joint all-domain command and control during an Orange Flag exercise this June, according to a notice the service issued Thursday.

The Air Force's 412th Test Wing hosts Orange Flag events three times each year to focus on technical integration of capabilities at varying technology readiness levels. Most recently, the Air Force combined an Orange Flag exercise with a Black Flag experiment earlier this month to integrate sensors, tactical networks and JADC2 nodes across the military services.

It's unclear if the Air Force will perform the long-awaited first flight test of Skyborg drones during the upcoming the event this June or evaluate the vehicles, autonomy software or other components of the program in another way. The notice also doesn't indicate if the Air Force is planning to integrate the gateway prototype with a Skyborg aircraft.

Boeing, General Atomics and Kratos have contracts with the service to deliver aircraft this spring in preparation for the first flight test this summer. The semi-autonomous vehicles are intended to use artificial intelligence to perform missions and collaborate with manned aircraft nearby.

A communications gateway, meanwhile, is one of the key technologies the Air Force has been experimenting with to ensure seamless information sharing between fighter jets for JADC2 operations. The service has already flown a prototype built by Northrop Grumman on a Kratos-built XQ-58A Valkyrie and is expected to demonstrate the capability on an aerial refueling tanker as well.