General Atomics has revealed the existence of a new experimental jet aircraft the company is developing for the US Air Force (USAF).
The manufacturer of uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) revealed the new type, which it calls the XQ-67A, on 8 February.
“We think you’re looking at the future of unmanned combat air vehicles,” says C Mark Brinkley, senior director of communications and marketing at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.
Officially known as the XQ-67A Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS), the uncrewed jet was developed and built for the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) – the service’s research and technology development centre.
“[General Atomics] was selected to design, build and fly that new aircraft,” says Brinkley.
Neither the AFRL nor General Atomics offered any specific details about the programme’s goals or test parameters – including whether or not flight testing has begun.
A video released by the company shows the single-engined XQ-67 undergoing what appears to be taxi testing on a desert runway.
In response to an inquiry by FlightGlobal, the company confirms the OBSS platform will be remotely piloted, rather than autonomous.
General Atomics is believed to be among the five aerospace manufacturers selected by the USAF to develop autonomous fighter jets – known as collaborative combat aircraft (CCA) – that will team with the service’s eventual sixth-generation combat fighter.
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and start-up Anduril have all confirmed their participation, in some form, with the CCA effort.
Photos of the XQ-67 released by General Atomics show an airframe profile similar to other autonomous jets under development, including the Boeing MQ-28 Ghost Bat and Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie.
Kratos has already delivered multiple examples of the XQ-58 for flight testing with the USAF and US Marine Corps.
Boeing is developing the MQ-28 in partnership with the Royal Australian Air Force, but has delivered at least one example to the USA for flight evaluations.
It remains unclear if General Atomics intends to put forward the XQ-67 for the CCA role. The company is also developing an autonomous jet concept it calls the Gambit, which appears tailored for the CCA mission.
The airframer has also been testing autonomous technologies with its remotely piloted MQ-20 Avenger. Formerly known as the Predator C, that type was the first variant in the Predator UAV family to be powered by a turbofan engine.