U.S. Fifth Generation Aerial Target (5GAT) drone ready for first test flight after COVID delay

| October 26, 2020

This sweet new toy is ready to go, they say.

The Fifth Generation Aerial Target or 5GAT drone will take off for the first time later this month during a test flight at the Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. The drone will take to the sky after it completed ground-based tests back in September.

The 5GAT drone is a full-scale low-observable aerial vehicle that accurately represents the fifth-generation fighter aircraft threats U.S. forces could face.

Due to the COVID pandemic, the drone has been delayed for a few months before the team could finally start working on the project again.

The purpose of the drone is to enable air-to-air and surface-to-air platform and weapons test and evaluation, pilot and ground-force training, and the development of tactics, techniques, and procedures against a fifth-generation threat.

Robert Behler, the director, operational test and evaluation said:

“To determine whether a system really is combat-credible, we must test it under realistic conditions. That includes putting it up against a realistic threat. Right now, we lack a test platform that truly represents fifth-generation air capabilities. Filling that gap as soon as possible is absolutely essential to both testing and training.”

The drone uses used parts from decommissioned Department of Defense (DoD) military aircraft along with other ground-based control systems to keep costs down.

The production of the drone is being done by contractor Sierra Technical Services and is being built from composites using soft tooling which also helps to lower the price. Fast Optimal created the flight control actuation, electrical power, hydraulics, landing gear, and steering system, with subcontractor 5D Systems creating the software used to keep the drone in the air.

Michael Crisp, a retired naval aviator and DOT&E’s deputy director for air warfare followed with:

“With 5GAT, we’ve reinvented the typical acquisition process, and have aggressively used innovative program management and contracting processes to accelerate new capability development and ensure cost savings. We pulled in expertise from ‘greybeards,’ both industry and military, and the vision of our next generation of pilots, U.S. Air Force Academy cadets. We gave STS the freedom to explore cutting-edge design and manufacturing techniques, and got an even bigger bang for the taxpayer buck by recycling government-owned assets.”

The test flight set is to begin around the end of this month with the primary objective to demonstrate the 5GAT’s flight characteristics, various subsystems’ performance, and the aircraft’s auto-takeoff and auto-landing functionality. Follow up tests will also take place with incremental speed, altitude, and G-force increase with each flight.

Crisp later added:

“When this unique prototype takes to the air in a few days, we will have gone from a basic concept to first flight in less than three-and-a-half years. That includes periods when the program slowed dramatically due to funding issues and the recent COVID-related delays,” Crisp said. “I think 5GAT shows the power, creativity, and flexibility that a small but diverse team with few constraints can produce — all to the benefit of the warfighter.”

Source; Drone DJ

Category: Air Force

Comments (34)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. MI Ranger says:

    Sounds exciting…wonder if we could use it as an actual drone? Maybe put some guns on it?!

    • Slow Joe says:

      We can’t have that!

      Pilots in the Air Force will not allow a challenge to their monopoly in flying combat aircraft.

      • FuzeVT says:

        If pilots can’t pilot, who will be the future leadership of the Air Force? A bunch of video game playing NERDS??!!

  2. Sapper3307 says:

    Just put some bombs on it,, party time.

  3. Graybeard says:


  4. 5th/77th FA says:

    “They’re very pretty Colonel, very pretty, but can they fight?”

    • Sapper3307 says:

      Hi O.J.

    • Claw says:

      Food for thought (and possible research) by all you enthusiastic Army Parachutist historians:

      At this point in the war, would COL Everett Dasher Breed been authorized to wear the Senior Parachutists Badge? Or was there even such a badge yet?/smile

  5. 26Limabeans says:

    “surface-to-air platform and weapons test and evaluation”

    “we must test it under realistic conditions”

    So in other words we can all try to shoot it down with whatever we got
    and we can try to jam it with whatever we got. Got it.

    • RGR 4-78 says:

      Fly that F-18 looking wanabe low and I will try to 12 gauge the shit out of it. We can use my #6 reloads. 🙂

  6. Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH B Woodman says:

    What’s the scale on that? Impossible to tell from the (lack of) background.

  7. Skyjumper says:

    I recently read that Communist China just came out with their version of the Aerial Target drone.

    It’s being called the FSD. 😉


    (Tā mā de bèi dào de wú rén jī)

  8. Mike Gunns says:

    Sort of looks like an F-18 without a canopy.

    • SFC D says:

      Goose! Watch the canopy!

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        Shots fired! And it wasn’t the KoB, ninja, or Skyjumper this time. Better put it on ice, man!

        • Skyjumper says:

          5th/77th FA, I know better than to fire another volley(ball) over Ed’s or Mick’s head concerning that unspoken picture perfect movie starring whatshisname.

          I’m going to put any further comments on ice & start playing nice with the boys due to my fear of getting inverted and goosed. I think they have lost that loving feeling.

          Now, I’m just going to sit back & relax while eating a can of peas.

          Keep all batteries ready, Gunbunny.
          I might need a danger zone close mission to cover this sorry grunt’s butt.

          Turn & burn! YEE-HAA!! 😉

          • 5th/77th FA says:

            My Man Sky! 😆 😛 😆 😛 😉

            You’ll be my dog even if you never leave the porch!

            Time on Target & Danger Close. The Wall of Steel will keep them out of the wire and the A2A Bat-trees will smoke dey azzes. We got this!

      • RGR 4-78 says:

        I believe that was an F-14 that was put on ice, man.

  9. timactual says:

    I am really curious as to how the F-35, with no operating active sensors (stealthy, you know) will detect another stealthy aircraft with no operating active sensors. I suspect the MkI eyeball is not as obsolete as some think.

  10. 26Limabeans says:

    They should at least paint a windshield on it with a picture
    of a pilot giving a thumbs up.