Contract award is "very close" for a new fleet of small tactical unmanned aircraft systems (STUAS) for the US Navy and Marine Corps, despite procurement hold-ups that have delayed the selection process since October.

Capt Bob Dishman, the navy's programme manager for unmanned aircraft systems, confirmed on 4 May that the contract award for STUAS/Tier II should occur imminently. Under the latest schedule revision, the programme is expected to sign a contract early in the second quarter.

Although that roughly 90-day period is nearing the half-way mark, Dishman says the programme remains on track to meet the schedule. He denies that the seven-month delay for contract signing is based on any disputes or fundamental changes in the navy's approach.

The STUAS/Tier II programme office is instead proceeding slowly to conduct a thorough "due diligence" on the competitors, especially in light of the risk of a protest by one or more of the losing bidders, he says.

Four companies submitted bids for the STUAS/Tier II contract, which could replace hundreds of leased Boeing/Insitu ScanEagle systems operated by navy and marine forces.

AAI submitted a proposal based on the Aerosonde Mk 3.7, while Boeing/Insitu is offering the Integrator, which offers more than three times the payload of the ScanEagle. A Raytheon/Swift Engineering team has proposed the flying wing Killer Bee-4, while General Dynamics/Elbit Systems joint venture UAS Dynamics has offered its Storm product.

Source: Flight International