A pair of desktop models in the office of a General Atomics Aeronautical Systems executive spotted during the Air Force Association’s Virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium.
The company later confirmed they show an undisclosed prototype combat drone and a precursor to the Sparrowhawk — a weapon-carrying air-launched drone, itself designed for launch from drones.
Michael Atwood, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) senior director for advanced programs is “Responsible for technical oversight of the aircraft design and development.
In addition, Mr. Atwood oversees the internal company development of advanced aircraft technologies.” Furthermore, he is “Comfortable and capable dealing with the most complex emerging technologies — including low observables, advanced composite aircraft structures, Electronic Warfare (EW), data-link communication and modern aviation weapons systems.”
In the photo, you can see an assortment of patches, a Pratt & Whitney mug, and a stack of paperwork were two desktop models of drones, neither of which was immediately identifiable.
According to Steve Trimble, Aviation Week’s Defense Editor the Valkyrie-looking model on the left could be a GA-ASI concept for LCAAPS or Skyborg, but that it was also possible that those designs were the same: think LCAAPS and Skyborg. As for the comment from GA-ASI’s Brinkley, that, of course, could imply LCAAPS and/or Skyborg..
Turning to the other model, on the right of the image, and partially obscured by Atwood himself, this is in two parts, one atop the other, depicting a pylon with an attached drone.
The GA-ASI Sparrowhawk is a weapon-carrying air-launched drone, which recently began captive carry tests in a demonstrator form, as we reported here. This small drone is intended to be launched and recovered in flight, by another drone, rather than a manned aircraft.
The company says that Sparrowhawk was specifically designed to work with other larger unmanned aircraft that it builds, such as the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle, offering an important stepping stone to all-new capabilities on those existing designs, as well as future ones.