The U.S. Air Force’s planned Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) may leverage the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) use of Boeing‘s [BA] MQ-28 Ghost Bat, Air Force Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach, the commander of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), said on March 20.

Boeing developed the Ghost Bat–a version of Boeing’s Airpower Teaming System–for the RAAF under the Loyal Wingman project.

“We really look forward to what they’re doing with the MQ-28 Ghost Bat,” Wilsbach told a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies virtual forum. “They are doing some great work figuring out exactly how to use this aircraft, and we look forward to seeing what they learn and then perhaps applying that to our CCA program ourselves.”

The Air Force’s $2.3 billion fiscal 2024 request for Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD)–$600 million more than appropriated last year–includes $392 million associated with CCA–figures that indicate that almost 17 percent of the NGAD fiscal 2024 request is for CCA, up to five of which each manned NGAD may employ (Defense Daily, March 14).

The Air Force’s March 13 fiscal 2024 budget overview lists a request of $522 million for CCA. The remaining $130 million for CCA outside of NGAD may be mostly attached to the service’s “autonomous collaborative platforms” research and development effort, begun last year, which was a continuation of work under the Skyborg Vanguard program. The “autonomous collaborative platforms” program is to move mature autonomous drones, including the Kratos [KTOS] XQ-58A Valkyrie, into the prototype phase.

The Air Force requested nearly $119 million for “Autonomous Collaborative Platforms” in fiscal 2024, a $67 million increase from last year’s appropriated amount.

Just before the Air Force’s fiscal 2024 budget release, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said that the service has conceptualized 1,000 CCAs to be used by 300 Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35s and 200 manned NGADs.

On March 20, Wilsbach also said that PACAF is collaborating with Australia in a number of areas, including on F-35 tactics and support; weapons programs; and training. Wilsbach said that Air Force crews who will fly the Boeing E-7A Wedgetail are to train on Australian E-7As so that they will be ready to fly the aircraft when fielded by the Air Force.