NEWS FROM AUSA GLOBAL: Army Picks Vendors to Inform Shadow Drone Replacement Requirements (UPDATED)

By Connie Lee
RQ-7B Shadow

Photo: Army

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. —The Army has chosen two vendors to continue the effort to replace its fleet of RQ-7 Shadow unmanned aerial vehicles, the service announced March 28.

To decide on a replacement strategy, the Army has been examining products from multiple companies to help inform future requirements. It held its first fly-off at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, in December and January, Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, the director of the future vertical lift cross-functional team, told National Defense earlier this month.

Now, the service has narrowed the pool as it moves forward with the drone initiative, Rugen told reporters at the Association of the United States Army's Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama. The chosen companies were Martin UAV, LLC based in Plano, Texas, and Textron's AAI Corp. based in Hunt Valley, Maryland. 

Each vendor was awarded $99.5 million per indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract over a three-year period, according to the service. The contracts includes six platoons worth of systems. The systems include air vehicles, terminals, trucks and ground support.

Rugen said the platoons will cycle through combat training center rotations with the products. 

“If it's going really, really well, it's going to be informing our [capability development document] for Shadow replacement,” he said. It will help the service better understand "what is possible," he added.

The goal is to “exploit that success” in 2021, he noted. However, the service has not made a decision on whether to issue another request for proposals or go down another path at that time. The service is using a “buy, try, decide” strategy for the replacement process.

“In an ideal sense, we may find something that is just so superior that we start the [acquisition] process, but I think the ‘decide’ piece is still in FY ‘20,” Rugen said earlier this month. “If we decide, then we'll move from there.”

Rugen previously said the Army wants three main features for the new platform, which include a better acoustic signature, runway independence and a way to transport it in organic assets such as a Chinook helicopter. Those features were chosen based on operational needs statements from the I Army Corps and the XVIII Airborne Corps, he noted.

The service set aside $40.7 million in research, development, test and evaluation funding for the initiative in the fiscal year 2020 budget request, according to documents. Plans include using $18.1 million for a multi-domain task force demonstration, which is expected to help inform future requirements for the Shadow replacement. The multi-domain task force is a pilot program the Army began to examine potential ways to integrate additional capabilities into its force structure.

The new system “will penetrate defense-in-depth environments by employing Air Launched Effects (ALE) with teaming and swarming effects to detect, decoy, jam radar and communications, conduct cyber-attack, spoof and jam GPS, and kinetic engagement,” the document stated.

Update: This story has been updated to clarify the Army's strategy for the Shadow replacement process.  

Topics: Army News

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