General Atomics Unveils Sensing Drone XQ-67A for AFRL’s OBSS Program

Defence Industry

Washington: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has unveiled XQ-67A – its drone offering for the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS) program. The XQ-67A could soon be moving into flight testing.

The design of XQ-67A stems from GA-ASI’s Gambit family of aircraft. The company is also proposing it for the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program. GA-ASI is one of five companies selected by the Air Force for an early stage of the separate CCA program. The images and videos released by GA-ASI, shows high-speed taxi tests being conducted in preparation for a first flight.

In a statement February 8, GA-ASI spokesman C. Mark Brinkley said, “We think you’re looking at the future of unmanned combat air vehicles. Without getting into specifics, I can say that we are stepping through [the OBSS] program methodically and working closely with our government partners to hit all of the markers for the project and deliver on our promises. We’re focused on speed to ramp, accelerated design processes, and bringing true capability to the fight.”

According to media report, the XQ-67A will be remotely piloted. In 2021, the Air Force originally awarded GA-ASI and Kratos contracts for the OBSS program, eliminating  Kratos in 2023. The program is thought to be aimed at fielding an unmanned aircraft with an exquisite sensor suite that can fly ahead of fighter jets and relay back targeting data and other threat information. Few details have been publicly confirmed about the highly secretive effort. Besides the XQ-67A, the Air Force has been experimenting with Kratos’s XQ-58A Valkyrie. Additionally, the Air Force has expressed interest in using Boeing’s MQ-28 Ghost Bat for testing, which the company brought to the United States after being originally developed for Australia.

The Air Force envisions a fleet of drones that could act as missile trucks, serve as sensing stations, conduct electronic attack and even draw enemy fire under the separate CCA program. The drones will provide “affordable mass,” to compensate for the service’s aging and shrinking fighter fleet and counter numerical advantages enjoyed by China, according to service officials.