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US Army Seeks New Drone for Large-Scale Combat Operations

The US Army has issued a request for information (RFI) regarding a new large drone that can support large-scale combat operations.

The unmanned aerial system (UAS) should fall under Group 4 or 5 (more than 1,320 pounds/600 kilograms), or the same category as the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle.

It must be able to perform precision strike, surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and command-and-control missions.

Additionally, the RFI states that the drone must have the ability to integrate advanced technologies, such as electro-optical/infrared sensors, synthetic aperture radars, and electronic warfare systems.

The US Army prefers solutions that can fly at an altitude up to 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) and have short takeoff and landing capability.

Manned-Unmanned Teaming

According to the notice, the large drone must be capable of operating independently or as part of an advanced team to support multi-domain operations.

When operating in conjunction with manned systems, the UAS should enhance the army’s ability to gather accurate and timely information.

It must also boast a significantly reduced time for delivering lethal and non-lethal effects, boosting the manned-unmanned fleet’s firepower in high-risk threat environments.

The desired solutions must also have the ability to land at previously unsurveyed sites, counter enemy jamming, and operate at a distance of 500 nautical miles (575 miles/926 kilometers).

Interested firms have until July 17 to submit their white papers.

A Segue to Potential MQ-1C Acquisition?

UAS analyst JJ Gertler from the Teal Group said that while the RFI signals a new drone effort by the US Army, it could also simply be a segue to potentially acquiring another MQ-1C Gray Eagle.

He claimed that the notice could be a way for the service “to check off the competition box” and make sure it is not missing some systems that could compete with the General Atomics-manufactured UAS.

“So yes, they might be looking for something new — but it’s about an even chance that they’re just hoping to buy more of what they already have,” he told Breaking Defense.

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