WASHINGTON — The U.S. military has chosen AeroVironment’s Jump 20 unmanned aircraft system to be the first future tactical UAS, an effort to replace the runway-dependent Shadow unmanned system.
The $8 million contract announced Thursday will pay for a system, which includes six aerial vehicles, ground data terminals and ground control stations, according to the military. The system will go to a single Brigade Combat Team.
“Based on the test results, Army leaders may decide to procure and field up to seven more [Increment 1] systems,” the service added in a statement.
This initial purchase is intended to inform requirements for a second program increment, which will be based on “a separate competitive acquisition,” the statement said.
In 2018, the military began reviewing replacement requirements for the Shadow drone manufactured by Textron. This unmanned system is widely used, but is one of the most accident-prone unmanned aerial systems in the service’s inventory, is difficult to deploy, and has a noisy engine, making it easily detected.
In 2019, the service narrowed the pool down to two competitors: Martin UAV and Northrop Grumman’s team and Textron’s AAI. Martin UAV provided its V-Bat system, while the Northrop-Textron team offered Textron’s Aerosonde HQ.
Soon after, the Army added two more aircraft for evaluation: Arcturus UAV’s Jump 20 system and L3Harris Technologies’ FVR-90.
For about a year, the task units evaluated the four different tactical unmanned aerial systems, culminating in a spring 2021 rodeo at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Last year, AeroVironment acquired Arcturus for $405 million.
“AeroVironment has met performance requirements while providing high technology and manufacturing readiness levels, reducing the need for additional development,” the service said in Thursday’s release.
AeroVironment declined to comment.
Already, the army is preparing for the second phase of the program. Almost a year ago, he published a request for white papers for this next part of the competition.
Martin UAV, which has since been acquired by Shield AI, has announced plans to submit a new and improved V-Bat that was not available at the time of the previous soldier evaluation process.
Volansi and Sierra Nevada Corp. also said earlier this year that they planned to compete for the second raise.
Maj. Gen. Wally Rugen, who oversees the future modernization of the Army’s vertical lift, said at the 2021 Rodeo that he wants the Army to get a revolutionary new, non-scalable tactical UAS capability. , which is not tied to a track, has lower signature acoustics and has much lower equipment requirements to transport the system.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club’s Best Analytical Reporting Award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards’ Best Young Defense Reporter in 2018.