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Thread: Lockheed investing $100M into F-35 controlled combat drones under Project Carrera

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    Lockheed investing $100M into F-35 controlled combat drones under Project Carrera

    This is the future of the F-35. Each manned fighter can control a lot of drones.

    Lockheed investing $100M into F-35 controlled combat drones under Project Carrera

    On a battlefield a decade or so in the future, a C-130 drops a pallet loaded with small, expendable drones, which break off and immediately begin flying toward a formation of F-35s.

    As the F-35 pilots fly toward an enemy surface-to-air missile site, they issue commands to the drones under their control: Collect data, go forward and draw fire, or find this target. Based on data gathered by some of the drones, the pilots are alerted to a probable threat, and an alternate route is suggested using information from other drones that have scouted ahead.

    This is the kind of technology Lockheed Martin hopes to prove out in its newly-revealed Project Carrera, a multi-year investment wherein the company plans to sink $100 million of its own money into drones, artificial intelligence, upgrades to the F-35 and novel communications technologies that will connect all the pieces together, John Clark, vice president of Lockheeds secretive Skunk Works advanced development cell, said during a briefing to reporters on Wednesday.

    The upcoming demonstrations will see an F-35 pair with up a network of Lockheeds Speed Racer drones, an expendable aircraft the company disclosed in 2020. However, the most significant element of the effort will concentrate on figuring out how fighter pilots can actually operate drones in the field, what advantages those drones can confer for human pilots, and how to establish trust between human pilots and the AI guiding the drones.

    This is not going to be a one-off stunt where, Hey, look, weve connected an F-35 to this uncrewed system, and we passed a track and yay, success, we now have a media headline that says that we did crewed-uncrewed teaming, Clark said. What were really focusing on is a systematic build up where we can evaluate that human and uncrewed system interaction, and understand how those behaviors build up over time.

    Lockheeds $100 million investment in Project Carrera is split into three areas:

    • $20 million for upgrades to the F-35 and for the development of uncrewed assets
    • $42 million for teaming enablers that include AI development, net-enabled pylons, advanced waveforms such as 5G, and open architecture technology
    • $38 million for battlespace multipliers, an interesting pot of money that includes low-Earth orbit satellites that will provide beyond line-of-sight communications between the fighter and drones, as well as forward survivable platforms that could include a penetrating sensor

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