US Air Force adds vendors to list of companies that could make autonomous Skyborg drone

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force has added nine vendors to the list of companies that will compete to build the service’s autonomous Skyborg drone wingman.

On Sept. 28, the service awarded each firm an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract worth up to $400 million. The nine companies were AeroVironment Inc., Autodyne LLC, BAE System Controls Inc., Blue Force Technologies Inc., Fregata Systems Inc., Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, NextGen Aeronautics Inc., Sierra Technical Services, and Wichita State University.

Those organizations join Northrop Grumman, Boeing, General Atomics and Kratos, which won the first round of contracts in July.

No money has been allotted to vendors so far. Instead, the 13 companies on contract will compete against each other for future delivery orders.

“This second phase of awards establishes a diverse and competitive vendor pool by adding several nontraditional and traditional contractors we saw as important additions to the effort,” said Brig. Gen. Dale White, the program executive officer for fighters and advanced aircraft, whose team manages the Skyborg program with the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Skyborg is one of the lab’s top three science and technology efforts. The project is meant to produce a family of uncrewed aerial systems that can move into contested spaces and conduct aerial missions that might be too dangerous for human pilots to perform.

Under the Skyborg program, the Air Force hopes to build a low-cost, attritable drone that can be reused but — if destroyed in combat — is cheap enough to be written off without incurring a large material loss. Key to the program is the development of artificial intelligence that will allow the aircraft to operate autonomously and potentially learn from prior training missions.

Currently, the Skyborg program is focused on developing the technologies necessary for the “Autonomous Core System,” the service said

Germany to tighten scrutiny of telecoms network vendors: sources

BERLIN (Reuters) – The German government has agreed in principle to tougher oversight of telecoms network vendors that, while stopping short of a ban on Huawei, will make it harder for the Chinese company to keep a foothold in Europe’s largest market.

Coalition and government sources said on Wednesday that scrutiny of a vendor’s governance and technology would be extended to the Radio Access Networks (RAN) powering next-generation 5G services, in addition to the more sensitive core.

The sources confirmed a report in the Handelsblatt daily which said that, after two years of wrangling, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition had agreed on a formula for how to handle so-called high-risk vendors in a proposed IT security law.

The compromise still needs to be drafted into a legal text, which Merkel’s cabinet is now expected to review in November, Handelsblatt reported, without naming its sources.

European governments have been shifting their position following pressure from the United States, which says the global telecoms network leader poses a security threat because, among other concerns, Chinese companies and citizens must by law to aid the state in intelligence gathering.

Huawei, based in Shenzhen, denies that it would allow its equipment to be used for spying.

German officials say that, while Britain has formally banned Huawei and France will informally exclude it, Germany will effectively strangle it in red tape. “The final outcome is the same,” one senior security official has said.

Germany’s three mobile network operators – Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica Deutschland – are all clients of Huawei and have argued that ripping out and replacing its equipment would be costly.

Market leader Deutsche Telekom’s 5G network in Germany, built largely with Huawei equipment, already reaches 50% of the population. By the time the IT Security law takes effect, it is expected to