The US Navy has outlined a new timeline for buying services provided by a fleet of unmanned aircraft systems worth up to $874 million.
The close-range intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) contract would replace the Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle with a ship-based, small UAS that would keep track of vessels within a 50nm (90km) radius of the launch ship.
Rather than buy a new fleet of aircraft the navy may award several services contracts, paying contractors to deliver and operate the ISR aircraft. The navy originally planned to launch a competitive acquisition process in October 2010 but the service has notified prospective bidders that a draft request for proposals will be released in April, with a final document in June.
The ScanEagle has been providing such services for the Marine Corps and navy since 2004, but the navy has decided to open the latest follow-on contract for ship-based ISR services to competition. The proposal has drawn interest from a wide range of potential suppliers, including the incumbent Insitu, which could offer either the ScanEagle or the Integrator. Northrop Grumman has been developing the Bat UAS, derived from the Swift Engineering KillerBee.
Other candidates known to be interested include AAI, AeroMech, Aurora Flight Sciences, Dragonfly and Stark Aerospace.
The navy has also awarded a contract to Insitu to start delivering 32 Integrator systems to USMC after 2013 to meet the small tactical UAS requirement.