US Army to restage sensor payload contest

Washington DC
This story is sourced from Flight International
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By Stephen Trimble

The US Army has relaunched a competition to supply a key sensor payload for programmes that include more than 530 helicopters and 130 unmanned air vehicles. The contract to develop a Common Sensor Payload (CSP) will be awarded after 1 October, according to army budget documents.

The CSP is intended to replace the FLIR Systems Britestar II sensor for the Bell ARH-70A armed reconnaissance helicopter and Raytheon's DAS-2 for the General Atomics Warrior extended-range/multipurpose (ER/MP) UAV. The army is holding the competition after initially allowing the airframe manufacturers to select their own suppliers, and has notionally budgeted $50 million for the first two years of development.

Bell selected the Britestar II as the ARH's primary targeting sensor during a competition against Boeing, but the army last year attempted to oust the design by staging a fly-off for the aircraft's imaging sensor. However, the Britestar II came out on top against Raytheon's ZSQ-2 payload.

FLIR intends to offer the same sensor for the new contract, with Raytheon to potentially counter with a new version of the ER/MP's DAS-2, already derived from the multi-spectral targeting system. However, DRS Technologies and Northrop Grumman products are also potential candidates. The contract will be awarded by the army's Communications and Electronics Command, which is responsible for airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets such as the proposed Aerial Common Sensor.

However, the future of both airframe programmes remains in limbo. The army will decide in mid-May whether to accept a programme replan on ARH submitted by Bell on 23 April, while the US Air Force is disputing the army's right to move forward on ER/MP as it claims domain over all medium-altitude and above ISR assets.