Defence has launched the process to replace the Army’s Shadow 200 tactical unmanned aerial system with a more modern capability, with the release of an invitation to respond (ITR) on the ausTENDER website on September 4.
The in-service Shadow 200 Version 1 was procured under Joint Project 129 Phase 2, and is operated by 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment.
Defence said Shadow 200 v1 was becoming obsolescent from 2019, while in the US the US Army is replacing its v1s with the Shadow 200 v2. But the ITR documents stressed that both versions of Shadow had a number of capability shortfalls which did not support Army’s need for a deployable, amphibious, and runway independent capability.
That shortfall will be addressed by new a new tactical unmanned aerial system (TUAS) to be acquired through Project Land 129 Phase 3.
“The replacement will ensure that the ADF is positioned to take advantage of the technological enhancements being made in TUAS Air Vehicle and Sensor technology,” the ITR says. “It will also ensure that there is no degradation in the Combat Brigade Commander’s combat capability due to reduced capability through Shadow 200 v1 obsolescence.”
An industry briefing on Land 129 Phase 3 will be held on September 19 at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, while the projected timeframe for delivery of the new capability is 2022-26.
The AAI RQ-7B Shadow was the Army’s first non man-portable UAS. The system entered service in Afghanistan in 2011, flying 10,000 hours in support of Australian and coalition operations. The system was delivered directly into theatre, and was withdrawn from operations in 2016.
Shadow has proved a reliable and versatile UAS. But, when it comes to finding a replacement, Army is spoiled for choice with more than a dozen candidate systems available on the world market, both fixed and rotary wing.
To help narrow and define its requirements, the Army has conducted trials with Schiebel S-100 Camcopters operated with the RAN which is conducting its own trial program in search of suitable UAS to operate from new warships.