The US Army has shortlisted two candidate unmanned systems to replace its large fleet of AAI Shadow 200 systems under its Future Tactical Unmanned Aerial System (FTUAS) program.
The Pentagon has awarded US$99.5m (A$140.1m) contracts each to Martin UAV and to AAI to deliver several “non-developmental” but otherwise unspecified systems to the Army starting next January to be used for a training an evaluation ‘fly-off’, before a formal decision is made in 2021.
It is believed AAI has offered an enhanced version of its Shadow Block III, while Martin UAV was last year reportedly offering the V-Bat tail-landing VTOL system it developed with Northrop Grumman.
The US Army says six platoons will operate the systems during contact centre training rotations. Currently, a US Army platoon consist of four Shadow air vehicles, so this suggests about 12 of each system will be acquired for the evaluation.
The FTUAS requirement calls for a system that will improved upon the Shadow’s performance including providing better acoustics and runway independence. The current Shadow requires a catapult launcher and a runway arrestor system for landing.
The Australian Army is currently studying options to replace its own Shadow 200 systems through Project LAND 129 Phase 3. To this end, Army issued an industry survey last May, and is developing a formal RFI.