US Army picks five firms to vie for new unmanned aircraft system

Textron RQ-7

A Textron RQ-7 Shadow UAV. The Army has selected five companies to build unmanned aircraft system prototypes as it seeks to replace the RQ-7 system. [STOCK IMAGE] 


The U.S. Army is in search of a new tactical unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to replace its Textron RQ-7 Shadow UAV and has selected five companies to build it prototypes.  


The Army awarded contracts to Northrop Grumman, Aerovironment, Griffon Aerospace, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Textron Systems on Feb. 27. Those values will vary between $1 million and $25 million and will depend on how far the developer progresses through a competitive evaluation phase.  


Unlike the RQ-7, which is launched from a catapult and is recovered via arresting gear, the Army wants the new vehicle to be a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft that doesn’t require use of a runway. The Army is also seeking a system that possesses On-The-Move (OTM) ability, meaning the system can be operated when in motion such as from a moving vehicle.  


The Army anticipates the competitive prototype phase will continue until 2025, upon which the Army expects to select a system for operational evaluations and production.  


The RQ-7 Shadow has been in service with the Army since 2002.  


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