The United States Marine Corps plans to launch a competition 13 October for a new UAV based commercial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) service to support the I and II Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF) in the Middle East.

The successful contender is required to be able to provide services simultaneously in four adjacent geographic regions, a scale of operation that will also probably establish the winning company as the dominant military UAV-based commercial ISR services provider in the global market.

The competition is likely to be dominated by a two way battle between Boeing Integrated Defense Systems with Insitu offering Scan Eagle, and AAI Corporation with its Aerosonde subsidiary, proposing Aerosonde.

Other potential contenders may however include Northrop Grumman, with its Killer Bee UAV; and Advanced Ceramics, offering its Silver Fox and Manta aircraft.

A pre-solicitation notice for the requirement issued by the US Navy says that “the services provider is expected to utilise a non developmental unmanned air system that is runway independent, capable of day and night operations, provides data dissemination and storage through vide storage wide area network, and will include a searchable database.”

The system is also required to be interoperable with the US Marine Corps existing Rover II remote viewing terminal system.

Boeing already holds contracts to provide I MEF with surveillance services in Iraq using two Scan Eagle systems, each comprising eight aircraft. That fleet had achieved 15,000 operational flying hours by July this year with one aircraft lost to hostile action. The contract was extended out to February 2007 under a $7.1 million contact awarded 19 July.

A separate contract to provide interim Scan Eagle services to II MEF was awarded 14 July, with this worth $18.5 million and running until March 2007.

The single global services award is expected to commence operation during first quarter 2007 as the existing Boeing-held contracts wind down.

The USMC plans a 30 day evaluation period for the competition, pointing to a source selection in mid November.

The proposed service arrangement is anticipated to be based in a time and materials contract, supporting operations at division level and below.

The pre-solicitation notice states that “the services provider shall be responsible for providing all required materials and personnel and all operations, logistics, systems engineering, technical management, configuration management, fielding, maintenance and supportability required to execute the ISR services effort.”