Middle Tier of Acquisition (MTA)
Scenario 3: ATTRITABLE AIRBORNE TARGET
The Air Force and Navy fighter community currently perform live-fire air-to-air exercises against QF-16 target drones. These drones are repurposed F-16 jets which have largely outlived their useful service lives in active service but get one last chance to fly in an unmanned configuration before being shot out of the sky. However, with the advent of stealthy 5th generation stealth fighters in several adversary inventories, the unstealthy QF-16 is increasingly unable to accurately represent the types of targets likely to be faced in an air combat situation. A joint project planning group is assembled to explore options for creating a target capable of more accurately representing a stealthy adversary aircraft.
A joint requirement document is produced under an Air Force and Navy partnership, describing an unmanned stealthy aerial target with a very low target price. Before launching a major effort to fill this training need, the services decide to use an MTA to develop some prototypes in order to validate the concept.
The program office establishes a Rapid Prototyping MTA to quickly develop and deliver the first prototype of a stealthy target drone. A competitive Other Transaction Agreement under 10 USC 2371b is used to execute the prototyping effort, with language in the solicitation that a follow-on sole source production OT agreement could be awarded if the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) is successful and the operational community would like to begin procurement.
COSTS & FUNDING
The funding comes from OSD’s Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration fund which has sponsored this important project with joint equities. The program takes advantage of the ACTD funds to submit a formal budget request at the next budget cycle to plan the follow-on activities needed to scale this prototype if successful.
Cadets from the Air Force and Naval Academies have been developing low-cost stealth drone designs as part of their aeronautical engineering curriculum, building small-scale models and entering them in various engineering competitions. The winning design is selected for further development by a competitively selected commercial company, which uses the government-provided designs as the initial basis for their full-scale test model.
TEST AND DEMONSTRATION
The testing strategy defines the operational environment and establishes detailed parameters to define success. In this case, the environment is the Eglin Gulf Test Range and the parameters include the ability of the UAS to demonstrate stable flight controls while flying an established flight pattern. Other tests include the ability to maintain communication links with its control station and activate electronic warfare capabilities that have been incorporated in the aircraft at the right time. Finally, the system is required to make a successful recovery landing.
PROTOTYPE OPERATION & SUSTAINMENT
Sustainment for these systems is limited. While they are attritable systems, not every mission is expected to be a lethality test so a maintenance concept is developed to sustain these platforms over multiple missions. There is no depot maintenance expected so it is limited to organizational-level activities.
The program office begins planning early to transition this MTA Rapid Prototyping program into the Rapid Fielding pathway to procure units beyond that needed for the prototype demonstration.