Sierra Technical Services recently unveils ‘faster’ and ‘more maneuverable’ stealth UAVs. According to Flight global stealth UAV completed several ground tests, including an engine test run, on its Fifth Generation Aerial Target (5GAT) aircraft.
The aircraft, which is powered by two General Electric J85 engines salvaged from retired Northrop T-38 Talon trainer jets, is intended to be used as a stealth target drone for the US Air Force (USAF) to shoot down.
Attributable aircraft is a new concept in aerial warfare: UAVs so cheap that combat losses won’t break the bank. For example, the USAF’s Loyal Wingman program is aimed at developing buddy attributable aircraft for its fleet of manned fighters, such as the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. It could be asked to take on dangerous tasks or might operate as a robotic scout.
Sierra Technical believes its 5GAT has abilities that would give it advantages over Kratos Defense’s XQ-58A Valkerie, a pioneering attributable UAV built in collaboration with the US Air Force Research Laboratory.
“We ran both engines all the way to [military] power at the same time,” says Roger Hayes, president, and co-owner of Sierra Technical. “We tested out our flight controls – elevons and rudders – and everything worked well.”
The unmanned air vehicle (UAV) should be ready for its first test flight during the first quarter of 2020, says Hayes.
However, because the 5GAT is inherently low-cost – estimated by Sierra Technical to be less than $10 million per production copy – and has a low-observable shape the company is also openly pitching it as an “attributable” Loyal Wingman stealth aircraft.
The 5GAT was commissioned as a stealth target aircraft by the Pentagon’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), and the supersonic flight was not part of its mission requirements, explains Hayes.
It is designed to be a disposable stealth aircraft for mock air combat, and a sparring partner that helps combat pilots learn how to shoot down stealth aircraft, such as Russia’s Sukhoi Su-57 or China’s Chengdu J-20.