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Kratos working on new tactical and ISR drone

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions received $14 million in recent contract awards to develop a new unmanned air vehicle, called Aethon, designed for tactical, as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, missions.

The company disclosed little else about the new UAV, saying that “due to competitive, customer related and other considerations, no additional information will be provided related to these recent contract awards”. The customer for the UAV was not disclosed.

Kratos developed Aethon and owns the system design and data rights, the company says. Highlighting the secret, national security-related nature of the contract, the firm says work under the recent awards will be performed at secure manufacturing facilities and customer locations.

The addition of Aethon to Kratos’ development slate comes after the company announced that it had more than doubled the number of tactical UAVs under development, growing from three publicly declared programmes in the second quarter of 2018 to seven in November.

The Aethon is not based off an aerial target design and is the first of the company's aircraft focused on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, said Steve Fendley, president of Kratos' unmanned manned systems division.

Kratos's tactical UAVs are subsonic and manoeuvrable to more than 9g. They are based on target drones that the firm has manufactured for the US military for years. The vehicles are touted by the company for their low cost: a trait that would make potentially losing a large number on the battlefield financially bearable for the US Department of Defense.

To accommodate its increased workload, last year Kratos opened a 9,300m2 (100,000ft2) production plant in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. It also has said it was close to signing a lease on another manufacturing facility at an undisclosed location, in addition to its Sacramento, California, production facility.

The company has two publicly declared customers for two of its tactical drones: the DoD's Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) has contracted the firm to integrate unspecified sensors on board the Mako UTAP-22, and the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has contracted the manufacturer to demonstrate its "Loyal Wingman" concept with the XQ-58A Valkyrie.

Updated with additional information on the Aethon from Kratos

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