As we all know, the US Navydid not select the Mariner unmanned aircraft system – offered by LockheedMartin and General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) – for the Broad AreaMaritime Surveillance (BAMS) contract.
Indeed, Lockheedhas protested the USN’s decision to select the Northrop Grumman RQ-4N GlobalHawk. That process is ongoing.
Meanwhile, I was offered an opportunity yesterday to interview Tom Cassidy, president and CEO ofGA-ASI, the maker-of-all-things-Predator.
Cassidy, aformer navy fighter pilot, could not speak about his partner’s protest claim onBAMS, but he did explain why the idea of a marinized Predator B is still verymuch alive – and perhaps still destined for a USN contract eventually.
Cassidy is not whatyou might call a typically reticent defense contractor. For example, Cassidy recently opted to withdrawthe Predator B from a contract selection process by the Canadian military.
Mainly, it was because theCanadians wanted to impose overly harsh penalties if aircraft are delivered late, he told me yesterday in an interview.
“I didn’tfeel it was prudent to get into [such a deal] with a customer,” he says. “Ithink it would just lead to hard feelings.”
There are apparently no such hard feelings by Cassidy about the BAMS decision. At the very least, if he believes his prime contractor partner Lockheed got a bad deal on the navy’s selection, he’s not saying.
More to the point, the BAMS loss certainly doesn’t mean GA-ASI is giving up on the market for a navy version of the Predator.
“We’re stillmarketing not the Mariner, but a marinized Predator B,” Cassidy says.
The Mariner configuration, which mated the Predator B airframe to the Altair’s high-altitude wing,is clearly not GA-ASI’s only option.
Simply unscrew the Predator B’s synthetic aperture radar and plug in a maritime radar in the bottom of the fuselage, and you’ve got an armed, unmanned and long-endurance aircraft for the navy, he says.
The marinized Predator B may appeal to some elements in the US Air Force, Cassidy says, as well as to civilian government agencies. “We just did a demonstration in the Caribbean last month with the (Department of) Homeland Security.”
Maybe’s it’s Cassidy’s navy roots talking, but he’s not giving up on the idea of the USN eventually buying swarms of Predator Bs:”Oh, absolutely,” he says. “I hope so.”