AAI, an operating unit of Textron Systems, has won a $358 million contract from the US Army and Marine Corps to upgrade 45 of the company's RQ-7B Shadows to the V2 standard, which includes longer wings and an electronics upgrade.
The Army will take 43 of the systems, while the Marine Corps will take two. The upgraded aircraft greatly extends the unmanned air vehicle's endurance and provides room for hardpoints, which the US Marine Corps uses to mount missiles.
The Shadow M2, a heavily modified version of the RQ-7, is readying for flight tests later in the year. The M2 is a projected growth engine, says Textron Systems president Fred Strader. "What we're anticipating is this will put us into a niche that allows single types" for operating nations, which can use them for missions typical of both larger and smaller UAVs.
While the M2 modification has no customers yet, several parties are interested, says Strader, who declined to identify them. "What we're finding instead is that most want tested systems," he says.