The Insitu Group has confirmed plans to offer independently the Integrator unmanned aircraft system for a major contract to supply hundreds of vehicles to the US Department of Defense.
Breaking from a five-year partnership with Boeing, the move thrusts Insitu into the first tier of competitors for the tri-service small tactical UAS (STUAS)/Tier II contract.
"We've examined it from all sides and have concluded that the way to bring the best technology at the best value to the warfighter is for Insitu to offer the Integrator UAS directly to the government as a solution for the STUAS/Tier II programme," the company says.
Instead of teaming with Boeing, Insitu's announced teammates for the Integrator are Black Ram Engineering and Corsair Engineering.
"With extensive experience working with large programmes, they have contributed substantially to the long-term sustainability of the platform by filling out our capabilities in areas like supply chain, logistics and networked training," Insitu says.
The Boeing/Insitu team now operates leased Scan Eagle systems for the US Marine Corps in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Scan Eagle is based on Insitu's 18kg (37lb) Insight design, originally developed to monitor fisheries.
The USMC and US Navy decided to lease Scan Eagles to support surveillance and reconnaissance needs in combat operations while developing the requirements for a formal acquisition programme.
Last year, Insitu publicly unveiled the larger, twin-boomed Integrator, with a maximum gross take-off weight of 59kg, including a 23kg payload capacity and a 24h endurance.
The Integrator was unveiled last August, when the USMC was expected to reveal its draft request for proposals for the Tier II contract. At that time, the competition was put on hold for one year, to combine Tier II with the USN's STUAS programme. The US Air Force also pledged to join the programme at a later date.
Insitu faces a wide and diverse competitive field for the combined STUAS/Tier II contract. At least three other teams have already been announced, including an AAI/Aerosonde bid, the General Dynamics/Elbit Systems Skylark II and Raytheon/Swift Engineering Killer Bee 3.
BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are also considering bids. Northrop has been in talks with Aurora Flight Sciences for the ducted-fan Golden Eye 80 UAS, but is also eyeing internally developed designs.