The US Navy plans to launch the bidding phase for its $2 billion Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned air vehicle programme around mid-year, almost a year behind its original schedule.

Despite a forthcoming BAMS demonstration using two Northrop Grumman RQ-4A Global Hawk land-based high-altitude, long-endurance UAVs, the navy intends to conduct a full competition for the contract. This should be awarded in the second quarter of fiscal year 2005, but potentially as early as next January.

The Global Hawk faces competition from a Lockheed Martin/ General Atomics team offering a variant of the latter company's MQ-9 Predator B-ER design called the Mariner. The navy has also listed the ship-based Northrop Grumman RQ-8 Fire Scout vertical take-off and landing UAV and AAI's RQ-2 Pioneer as potential solutions.

"All current candidates represent systems in the current DoD [Department of Defense] inventory and future DoD procurement plans," says John Young, assistant secretary of the navy for acquisition, technology and logistics. "Our competitive acquisition strategy will leverage prior DoD investments and continue our pursuit of joint procurement opportunities," he says.

BAMS is expected to be an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance adjunct to the USN's Boeing or Lockheed Martin Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft, which is in source selection.

The navy is expected to buy about 100 MMA platforms and about 50 BAMS aircraft to replace its Lockheed Martin P-3 Orion fleet, starting in 2010.


Source: Flight International