Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Boeing and Northrop Grumman have received the first contracts under a broad-ranging programme designed to research technologies in support of the US Air Force Laboratory's (AFRL) work on future aerospace platforms.

Under the eight-year, $95 million Air Vehicles Technology Integration Programme (AVTIP), AFRL's Air Vehicles directorate plans to award multiple contracts to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to study core technologies in its focus areas of sustainment, space access, and future strike and unmanned air vehicles (UAVs).

The initial "delivery orders" cover work on the AFRL's concepts for a military spaceplane - the Space Operations Vehicle (SOV) - and the Sensorcraft, an unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance vehicle. The third area identified so far is a study to quantify the drivers for aircraft operations and support (O&S) costs.

Northrop Grumman has been awarded the first contract under AVTIP, to develop a concept of operations for the SOV. Using this, the company will define integrated guidance and control and supporting ground infrastructures enabling "aircraft-like" operations.

Northrop Grumman will review emerging technologies to identify those that promise to benefit the SOV's weight efficiency, reliability, affordability and responsiveness. The company will also develop an investment strategy plan to mature the required technologies.

Under the second AVTIP contract, Boeing will formulate air vehicle concepts, identify potential applications and define candidate configurations for the long-endurance, high-altitude Sensorcraft.

The work includes modelling and simulation to verify the aerodynamic and performance characteristics of the resulting air vehicle designs.

Further contracts are expected to be awarded soon under the Sensorcraft and O&S focus areas. Other delivery orders will follow as AFRL researchers define their requirements for technology work.

Under another AFRL research and development contract, called Predictive Failures &Advanced Diagnostics for Legacy Aircraft, Northrop Grumman will develop software to diagnose problems and predict failures in existing USAF aircraft, such as the Boeing F-15 and Lockheed Martin F-16 and C-130. The goal is to reduce subsystem life-cycle costs and increase aircraft availability.

Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, meanwhile, have won a contract under the AFRL's Advanced Sensor Programme to improve sensor performance in clutter by using new processing architectures and technologies.

Source: Flight International