Leidos was awarded a $26,798,950 U.S. Army contract for Saturn Arch Quick Reaction Capability aircraft, the U.S. Department of Defense said in a release.
Work will be performed in Bridgewater, Virginia, with estimated completion date is September 16, 2019, the Monday, August 27 release said.
The contract award notice gave no further information, but in May 2017, Leidos was awarded a $21,121,384 contract to “design, build, test, and deliver one Saturn Arch configured aircraft.”
In April 2018, the U.S. Army gave Notice of Intent to sole source the procurement of two Saturn Arch Quick Reaction Capability aircraft from Leidos, and in May issued a Request for Information for the same purchase.
Common with other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts, the Army does not often publicly discuss the shadowy Saturn Arch program, which began life as an aerial anti-improvised explosive device effort used in Afghanistan.
On July 31, the U.S. Army awarded Leidos a $60 million contract for operations and sustainment services in support of Saturn Arch, to be performed in Bridgewater, while in July 2017, Leidos was awarded a similar $61 million contract for operations and sustainment services to be performed in Afghanistan.
Saturn Arch: beyond an anti-IED aircraft
The U.S. Army says the Saturn Arch Program began in 2010, with an effort to fit intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities on aircraft to identify and assist in removing IEDs from the battlefield in Afghanistan.
In 2014, it said that Saturn Arch had grown beyond an anti-IED mission, seeking to make the battlespace “as safe as possible for service members and international partners” and providing as clear a picture as possible.
According to Colonel Adam R. Hinsdale, then commander of Task Force Observe Detect Identify Neutralize-East, Saturn Arch provided constant intelligence collection and rapid daily distribution to U.S. and Afghan forces.
Saturn Arch was then serving as an aerial capability for IED threats and other hostile enemy action, communicating directly to headquarters and units on the ground.
The platform is built on the twin-turbo prop powered Bombardier Dash-8 aircraft.
The sensor suite carried on Saturn Arch aircraft is unknown, but according to Air Recognition it includes high-resolution electro-optical-infrared imagers, full-motion video, foliage-penetrating radar, synthetic aperture radar, digital mapping tools, and signals intelligence and communications intelligence capabilities, and in February 2018, The War Zone published a contracting notice which listed the platform’s equipment.