THE PENTAGON'S Maneuver Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (Maneuver UAV) programme, which had been gaining momentum and building support among the US military services, has been slowed down.

In late July, key Pentagon acquisition staff and military service representatives met to determine the fate of the short-range UAV component of the Joint Tactical UAV programme.

According to the Pentagon, "...these officials agreed to take a final look at innovative ways to restructure the end-to-end programme to meet the war fighter's needs. The goal is to infuse smart, innovative and affordable approaches to manoeuvre-system acquisition to provide this critical UAV capability to the US Army and US Marine Corps by fiscal year 1998."

To achieve this goal, the Pentagon ordered a 30-day study " build upon acquisition-planning efforts to date while making the necessary adjustments to lower risk, shorten schedules and provide the required performance at an affordable cost in today's budget environment".

The decision to re-evaluate the much-stalled Maneuver UAV project came, as programme officials were ready to initiate the drone procurement competition.

The draft request for proposal (RFP) was due in July, and the final RFP was scheduled for release by 30 September. The UAV Joint Project Office planned to name the Maneuver UAV contractor before 31 December.

A bidders' conference, scheduled for 18-20 July was postponed, pending the outcome of the study and industry, officials doubt that the proposed schedule can now be met.

The Maneuver UAV would provide intelligence-gathering capability at up to 32km (17nm) with electro-optical and forward-looking infra red sensors. The Pentagon could buy 100 systems (each with four air vehicles).

Source: Flight International