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GA-ASI’s Gambit: The Cutting-Edge, Unmanned Combat Aircraft Shaping the Future of Aerial Warfare

Air dominance is a foundational aspect of American and allied military strength – but it should not be assumed as a given. A variety of sophisticated new aircraft and challenges imply that traditional methods of establishing and maintaining air superiority will face increasing obstacles. To stay ahead, the U.S. Air Force and its reliable partners need to modify their approach. That’s why the Air Force is adopting a novel category of cooperative combat aircraft – highly autonomous unmanned planes that will significantly broaden the capabilities of human pilots in fifth-generation and newer fighter jets.

That’s also why the global leader in unmanned aircraft, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc., has developed the world’s inaugural family of unmanned collaborative aircraft: Gambit. These innovative unmanned systems will be more affordable than manned fighters. They also establish a buffer between hostile and friendly aircraft where no individuals are in danger. Deploying them in larger quantities also helps U.S. and allied forces maintain multiple advantages over opponents. Stealth aircraft are designed to delay detection from specific angles – typically to confound ground-based radar trying to detect them from the front and below.

However, when two or three or more autonomous Gambit planes cooperate to image and sense a target from various angles in the sky, this greatly aids in detecting and tracking the target. Depending on their instructions, the unmanned systems might remain inactive. They might transmit the track they’ve established to a manned aircraft. One Gambit is designed to carry both air-to-air and/or air-to-ground weapons to assist air superiority sweeps and strike missions. Another Gambit plane features a stealthy design combined with mission systems to augment strike missions with improved capabilities in the radio frequency domain.

A third aircraft is devoted to long-endurance intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to create and maintain situational awareness to support manned and unmanned inbound strike missions. And finally, since air dominance begins with the training and qualification of skilled human pilots, one Gambit variant serves as a dedicated adversary, intended for use in weapons school and similar settings to hone air combat abilities. Counter-air operations are just one of the numerous missions needed to uphold superiority and only one of the uses for the Gambit series.

Each aircraft is approximately 70 percent identical, featuring a standard core akin to practices within the automotive industry: once a car manufacturer assembles a frame, chassis, wheelset, and other components, it can proceed down one production line to become a family sedan or down another to become a luxury model with a distinct interior. The same applies to Gambit, making each model simpler and more economical to produce. Another distinguishing factor of the series is the cutting-edge software and supplementary systems that enable the aircraft. GA-ASI is the undisputed leader in autonomous aircraft systems, with several groundbreaking demonstrations supporting U.S. Air Force or other advanced projects.

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