House lawmakers propose $50M boost to develop LCAAT

By Sara Sirota  
May 22, 2019 at 11:26 AM

House appropriators are recommending an additional $50 million in fiscal year 2020 to further develop the Air Force's low-cost attritable unmanned aerial vehicle effort.

The funding boost is intended to develop, prototype and integrate Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology air vehicles, payloads, and launch and recovery concepts, as well as datalinks, human-machine interface enhancements and teaming, sustainment systems and other efforts.

Lawmakers explained their interest in this capability in a report accompanying the House Appropriations Committee's mark of the FY-20 defense spending bill, which the full committee approved Tuesday.

"The committee believes that LCAAT has the potential for game-changing capability and capacity across both permissive and contested environments while avoiding the high cost, long development timelines, and inflexible production lines of traditional aircraft programs," the report said.

If passed, the act would direct the Air Force secretary to submit a spending plan to the congressional defense committees for LCAAT funding in the budget request and the additional sums provided by appropriators.

LCAAT does not have its own funding line in the FY-20 budget request but is split across the Air Force's aerospace vehicle technologies, aerospace technology development/demonstration and manufacturing technology programs.

The service is asking for $148 million, $103 million and $43 million for these programs respectively. In addition to LCAAT, the funding is intended to support other initiatives, such as development of an economic service life analysis capability for legacy aircraft.

The service said in its budget request it aims to complete LCAAT affordable manufacturing methods, wing structure developments and flight demonstration analysis, among other efforts, in FY-20.

LCAAT achieved a major milestone in early March, when Kratos' XQ-58-A Valkyrie -- a long-range, high subsonic UAV -- had its first flight at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ. The Air Force Research Laboratory awarded Kratos a $40.8 million cost-share contract to develop the platform in 2016.