The New Generation of “Attritable” Unmanned Aerial Systems

Steve Trimble of Aviation Week magazine/Aviationweek[dot]com reported in early September that the low-cost Model 437 shown in the artist’s rendering is a “paper concept” intended to meet requirements for a new class of attritable autonomous unmanned aerial systems (UAS). “Attritable” means a system affordable enough to lose on any given mission, but which can be reused as many as a dozen times.  Attritable systems, arguably a reflection of Moore’s Law as computerized systems become smaller, less expensive and more powerul, may presage a generational change in UAV technology. The term has also been used in other contexts including the U.S. Air Force’s Skyborg program and the Royal Air Force’s Project Mosquito, among others. The Model 437 concept unveiled by Northrop could enter the attritable market with a $5-6 million price tag, said Cory Bird, vice president of Northrop-owned Scaled Composites. With a 4,000-lb. fuel capacity, the Model 437 reportedly could fly missions up to 3,000 nm while cruising at Mach 0.8.

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