Two UAV-makers that battled for a $1 billion US Army contract four years ago are poised for another epic face-off in the US market.
In 2005, the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) MQ-1C Sky Warrior prevailed over the Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) Heron (shown above) for the army's extended-range/multi-purpose (ERMP) contract. A few months later, the Heron, which then-IAI partner Northrop Grumman called the "Hunter II", also lost a competition against the Predator B for a deal with the US Customs and Border Patrol.
The battle between the Heron and the Predator series then moved overseas, with IAI better holding its ground. Both sides have won some and lost some in the foreign market. Germany, for example, has apparently recently sided with the Heron, according to, of all people, GA-ASI CEO Thomas Cassidy.
The competition has now moved back onto US shores -- or, more precisely, just off the US shores. The next battle between the Predator B and the Heron will be in the US market for maritime patrol aircraft.
In separate interviews at AUVSI this week, both Cassidy and IAI North America CEO Uzzi Rozzen said they are now positioning for potential new orders by the US Coast Guard, navy and Department of Homeland Security.
GA-ASI's Cassidy believes the baseline Predator B, stripped of the extended Altair wing and expensive gear that proved non-competitive for the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) contract, can be a powerful, land-based surveillance aircraft for naval missions. The comapny is evaluating radars from five different suppliers for the maritime role, he says.
Meanwhile, IAI's Rozzen believes the Heron will prove to be attractive as a low-cost alternative to the Predator B, which is larger and more costly than the Sky Warrior. Rozzen also expects the US Southern Command to award a follow-on contract IAI to perform an operational evaluation of the Heron in the maritime role. IAI previously demonstrated the Heron for SOUTHCOM during an exercise in Honduras.