USAF taps Exosonic to develop supersonic combat training drone

The US Air Force has awarded Exosonic a contract to develop a supersonic combat drone concept. The demonstrator vehicle will be used to demonstrate the technologies behind the quiet supersonic concept and to train pilots. The project will, among other things, help the USAF train its fighter pilots for potential future encounters with "near-peer adversaries."

Low-boom supersonic technology is a hot topic at the moment, promising a rapid rate of travel without the loud booming noises typical of these aircraft. Exosonic will use its low-boom technologies to develop the demonstrater unmanned aerial vehicle for the USAF under a Direct to Phase II Small Business Innovation Research contract.

The company says this will be the USAF's first purpose-built supersonic drone intended to help train pilots. Of note, the US Air Force is currently facing both a pilot shortage and training budget constraints, which has resulted in a lack of new fighter pilots that have been fully trained. The Exosonic UAV will be leveraged as a "mock adversary" for use during live flight training exercises for fighter pilots

Compared to existing live training processes, Exosonic says its low-boom supersonic drone will help the USAF train fighter pilots at a much lower cost while also reducing the wear and tear on existing aircraft. Beyond that, the company points out that using an unmanned drone as the faux adversary will free up pilots to focus on their own training rather than requiring them to spend time serving as the enemy in a training situation.

Beyond the USAF, Exosonic says that it can also leverage the unmanned drone for its own purposes, namely as a way to test its low-boom supersonic tech. The data from these flights may then help pave the way for a revision on regulations that limit overland supersonic flights, which are intended to prevent the public from being disrupted by the loud booming sounds.