Defence has announced four contenders for the Australian Army’s LAND 129 Phase 3 program to replace the AAI Shadow 200 tactical UAS in service, with Insitu Pacific, Leidos Australia, Raytheon Australia, and Textron Systems Australia all shortlisted.
The shortlist follows an initial industry survey that was issued to industry in May 2018, and a follow-on Invitation to Respond (ITR) in September 2019. The project will now progress to a Request for Tender (RFT) with submissions due by June 30.
Industry sources suggest the successful tender may be brought forward from an originally planned 2021 as the government seeks spending opportunities with Australian industry during the COVID-19-driven economic downturn.
No details have yet been provided as to what platforms the shortlisted companies are offering, but ADBR understands Insitu is offering the Integrator/RQ-21 Blackjack, Raytheon has reportedly teamed with Schiebel Australia to offer the S-100 Camcopter, and Textron’s bid is believed to be based on the Aerosonde 4.7. Leidos is yet to publicly declare what system it is offering.
The Integrator is a larger version of the familiar ScanEagle which has seen service with the Army and RAN. The Integrator is in service with the US Marine Corp as the RQ-21 and, like ScanEagle, it is launched by catapult and retrieved by a crane-like skyhook.
The S-100 vertical takeoff and land system is now familiar in Australian skies, having been leased by the RAN under Navy Minor Program 1942, and also trialled by Army in recent years.
The Aerosonde 4.7 can trace its roots back to the original Australian-developed Aerosonde UAS, but now has a more powerful engine and larger payload capacity. It is also catapult launched, and is captured by a net-like barrier.
Israeli-firm Aeronautics has recently been advertising its Orbiter 4 system in Australia, although it has not announced a teaming with any local prime.
All three systems use heavy fuels common to those used by Army vehicles and naval vessels, and all are designed to carry various payloads including EO/IR sensors, electronic warfare and signals intelligence payloads, and synthetic aperture radars.