The US Department of Defense has awarded Advanced Technology International a $77-million contract to develop Fifth Generation Aerial Target (5GAT) prototypes.
The 5GAT project intends to develop an affordable aerial target with the characteristics of an adversary fifth-generation aircraft, including performance, signature, and countermeasures.
Advanced Technology International will serve as the “managing prime” for this award, while Sierra Technical Services (STS) is named as a major subcontractor.
Fifth-Gen Aerial Target
The US military initiated the project due to the unavailability of retired fifth-generation airframes, the unmanned version of which was used as an aerial target to train fifth-gen aircraft pilots.
The retired airframes had been chosen over standard aerial targets as they were cheaper and better represented the characteristics of adversary aircraft.
“These aircraft must represent the threat throughout an engagement, i.e., from initial acquisition until missile impact and hence the target is often destroyed after completing only a few tests,” US Army Contracting Command explained in the contract notice.
“To contain costs for these limited lifetime assets, unmanned versions of retired fighter aircraft have previously been employed for this mission.”
“However, due to the increased cost and lifespan of the latest 5th Generation fighter aircraft, no retired airframes are available that adequately represent the characteristics of 5th Generation threats.”
The project will refine the previous design to meet its performance goals.
One or more additional prototypes will be built under the project, including ground and flight tests, to prove the efficacy and affordability of the aircraft design.
Upon achieving these objectives, the system could be integrated with auxiliary equipment such as range-unique control system communications devices, scoring systems, and flight termination systems.
Alternatively, the system could be transitioned directly to individual service branches for range integration and transition to production.
The effort will be complete after the government validates and accepts the prototype, followed by a non-competitive production contract.
The previous iteration of 5GAT STS crashed in 2020 during its maiden flight due to an “undiscovered software error,” the service said.
The aircraft met all ground test objectives, and its configuration and design are still “considered to be sound.”