The next program manager, Larry Birklebaw, put together the program strategy. The UCAV program has been executed under the Other Transactions Authority granted to DARPA. This has provided flexibility to DARPA in managing the team, in getting industrial cost sharing, and in team formation and management. Phase I was a 1-year competition between four vendors based on concept design, risk management approach, and effectiveness analysis. Phase II began with the selection of one contractor (Boeing). This contractor built the multiple A-vehicle prototypes to demonstrate capability in the key risk areas: autonomous ground operations; intervehicle communications; and multivehicle flight operations, including formation flying, collision avoidance, and dynamic retasking. The air vehicles were part of an overall demonstration tool kit that included surrogate aircraft and extensive modeling and simulation tools. The demonstration phase, Phase III, addressed additional risks using B-model vehicles. This included formation flying with communications losses, planning and decision-making systems, final air vehicle design, incorporation into simulation for joint exercises, and final end-to-end demonstrations in Service and joint exercises.

The UCAV concept was sufficiently interesting that by 2000 the Navy realized it, too, needed to join the Air Force and become involved. The UCAV-N effort identified additional issues to be addressed to enable an unmanned system operating in the unique environment of a carrier. These include integration with manned aircraft operations, catapult launch, on-deck taxi and maneuver, arrested landing, waveoff, and recovery from failed arrest (bolter).

In 2003, the program was transitioned to a joint program office still managed by DARPA but tightly coordinated with the Services. The goal for this joint program office is the maturation of the systems and the seamless transition of the UCAV technology base to an acquisition program, without the usual gap of several years. As part of this transition of authority, the technical and design approach of the vehicle has changed somewhat to reflect service requirements. These changes were not necessarily true to the original DARPA-originated UCAV concept, but were needed to ensure a smooth reception by the ultimate users.

The UCAV program is considered a highly successful DARPA effort. By identifying key enabling technologies and concepts, DARPA helped to move the concept of an unmanned combat aircraft from speculation to demonstration, with great promise of an operational capability in coming years.


The Department of Defense (DOD) Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSADBU) states: The DOD Mentor-Protégé (MP) program was enacted in 1990 (Public Law 101-510) under the direction of Senator Sam Nunn and Secretary of Defense William Perry. This program was established to provide incentives for (major) DOD prime contractors (mentors) to help small disadvantaged businesses (SDBs), qualified organizations that employ the severely disabled, and women-owned businesses (protégés) develop technical and business capabilities. The goal of the program is to assist protégés to successfully compete for prime contract and subcontract awards.

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