Boeing has been awarded a five-year, $767 million contract to build three X-45C Joint Unmanned Combat Air System (J-UCAS) vehicles and conduct a two-year operational assessment starting in fiscal year 2007.

The 12 October contract is the last of three placed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)to complete the J-UCAS programme. Northrop Grumman received a $1 billion award last August to build three competing X-47B prototypes, with Johns Hopkins University securing a $27 million deal last month to manage a consortium that will design a common operating system (COS) for both air vehicles.

Potential consortium members including Boeing and Northrop Grumman met for the first time last week, says Daryl Davis, Boeing J-UCAS programme manager. Johns Hopkins is to act primarily as a broker, coaxing the two primes to agree on standards for the COS. Its staffers will assume an integrator role in technology areas where the brokering approach fails. Meanwhile, Northrop Grumman faces a three-day system requirements review from 19 October, says Rick Ludwig, the company's X-47B programme director.

Source: Flight International