The U.S. Army has chosen two companies to produce unmanned aircraft systems to replace the RQ-7 Shadow scout drone, in use since 2001. The Army selected Martin UAV and Textron subsidiary AAI Corp., the manufacturer of the Shadow, to compete for each order of the firm-fixed-price procurement contract running through March 27, 2022, with a $99.5 million ceiling cap for the award, according to the Army's Future Vertical Lift cross-functional team.
The Shadow replacement, dubbed “Future Tactical UAS” or FTUAS under the Army’s Future Vertical Lift modernization program, seeks to procure non-developmental scout drones that are quieter, smaller and easier to transport and deploy than the Shadow. The Army also wants its new scout drone to employ “Air Launched Effects,” or ALE, meaning it should be deployable from a helicopter mid-air.
Martin UAV's V-Bat.
Martin UAV announced in November it has teamed with Northrop Grumman Technology Services to develop its V-BAT system, a tail-landing VTOL drone with a ducted fan. V-BAT takes up a 9-foot by 8-foot space, can fly for up to 8 hours at a time and can dash at up to 90 kts.
RQ-7 Shadow. Photo: AAI
Incumbent manufacturer AAI put out a statement acknowledging the award, stating its Shadow drone "continues to deliver thousands of monthly flight hours" for the Army. The company plans to offer an updated version of the Shadow it calls Block III enhancements.
The Army has requested $12.1 million for procurement of 12 Shadow replacement drones at a unit cost of $632,500, plus training and project management support, according to the Army’s fiscal 2020 budget justification documents. The service also requests $18 million to test the new aircraft in its Multi-Domain Task Force and an additional $20 million to support “ALE Early Systems Analysis.”
The future scout UAS will “employ teaming and swarming effects to detect, decoy, jam RADAR and communications, conduct cyber-attack, spoof and jam GPS, and kinetic engagement,” according to the Army.
The service has requested a total of $132.5 million through fiscal 2024 for FTUAS procurement.