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US Army Awards Five Companies Future Tactical Drone Contracts

The US Army has contracted five companies for the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS) Increment 2 (INC 2) competition.

The award comes under a Rapid Prototyping Other Transaction Agreement based on a competitive evaluation varying from $1 million to $25 million, depending on how far competitors go in the effort.

The companies selected were AeroVironment, Griffon Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and Textron Systems.

FTUAS Increment 1

The army began looking to replace the Textron-made AAI RQ-7 Shadow drone in 2018, considered accident-prone and easy to detect due to a noisy engine. 

The service selected four systems as possible replacements in 2019: Northrop Grumman’s V-BAT, Textron’s Aerosonde’s Mk. 4.8 Hybrid Quad, L3Harris Technologies’ FVR-90, and AeroVironment’s Jump 20.

In August 2022, the army picked AeroVironment to build and deliver a JUMP 20 system to a selected brigade combat team. 

A Jump 20 system includes six air vehicles, ground data terminals, and ground control stations.

During the award, the service said it might order seven more systems following initial testing.

FTUAS Increment 2 

The INC 2 is a five-stage effort, including a base and four option periods from 2023 to 2025.

The base will see design reviews in option 2, while option 3 involves capability demonstration by the remaining candidates through flight trials and “third-party modular open systems approach (MOSA) verification activities,” the army explained.

In the final option stage, the remaining contestants will deliver four air vehicles each, including necessary packages and two mobile controllers for qualification and operational testing.

The effort involves utilizing “model-based systems engineering (MBSE) and other digital engineering techniques to implement the government’s MOSA,” the army wrote.

Implementing MBSE and MOSA will enable the system to align with the “UAS Family of Systems and higher-level system architectures.”

Desired Attributes

The army is looking for a rapidly deployable “premier vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft” in the program.

“When fielded, the FTUAS INC 2 will provide a distinct tactical advantage over current systems due to increased maneuverability through VTOL, improved command and control supported by the On-the-Move capability, a reduced transportation and logistics footprint, as well as significantly improved survivability due to reduced noise signature,” the army outlined.

In addition, the runway-independent platform is expected to remain operational in a GPS-denied environment, increasing the brigade combat team’s “ability to conduct reconnaissance and surveillance operations.”

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