Prototypes of five different aircraft have been ordered for competitive demonstrations under US Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM’s) Armed Overwatch programme.
USSOCOM’s Directorate of Procurement awarded five fixed-price prototype project other transaction agreements – totalling US$19.19m – for the prototype demonstrations. The contracts were awarded on behalf of the USSOCOM Program Executive Office-Fixed Wing (PEO-FW) and were announced on May 14, when they were published on the US government’s official beta.SAM.gov federal contracting website.
The five contractors and the aircraft they are proposing are as follows:
- Leidos Inc of Reston, Virginia, with the Bronco II.
- MAG Aerospace of Fairfax, Virginia, with the MC-208 Guardian.
- Textron Aviation Defense LLC of Wichita, Kansas, with the AT-6E Wolverine.
- L-3 Communications Integrated Systems LP of Waco, Texas, with the AT-802U Sky Warden.
- Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) of Sparks, Nevada, with the MC-145B Wily Coyote.
The Bronco II is an Americanized version of South Africa-based Paramount Group’s Advanced High Performance Reconnaissance Light Aircraft (AHRLAC), which was previously offered to USSOCOM in May 2020 in partnership with Leidos and Vertex Aerospace. The MC-208 Guardian is an armed, militarised variant of the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan and was launched by MAG Aerospace in March this year.
The US Air Force (USAF) has already taken delivery of an AT-6E Wolverine, which the service received earlier this year as part of the Continued Light Aircraft Experiment. L3Harris (formerly known as L-3 Communications) launched the AT-802U Sky Warden on May 6, 2021. This militarised multi-mission aircraft is based on Air Tractor’s family of AT-802 agricultural/aerial firefighting aircraft. SNC has yet to make any announcements regarding the MC-145B Wily Coyote. However, the platform will obviously be based on the Polish-made PZL Mielec M28 Skytruck, which is already in operational service with USSOCOM as the C-145A Combat Coyote.
Contract awardees will be required to demonstrate prototype systems, which will be evaluated against well-defined criteria for the Armed Overwatch programme. If the prototype project is deemed successfully completed by the government, the contractor may be requested to provide a production proposal for a follow-on production award.
This will be awarded without additional competition and the contract will have a five-year baseline ordering period. The government estimates there will be a total purchase of 75 aircraft with associated support over the life of the acquisition.
Work under the prototype project will be performed primarily at the awardee’s locations, as well as at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida. It is expected that this initial contract will be completed by March 2022. The awards are the result of a competitive effort and are being financed with Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) Research, Development, Test and Evaluation funds.
The Armed Overwatch programme intends to provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) with a deployable, affordable and sustainable manned aircraft system. The platform must be capable of fulfilling close air support (CAS); armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); strike co-ordination and reconnaissance (SCAR); and forward air controller (airborne) requirements in austere and permissive environments for Countering-Violent Extremist Organisation (C-VEO) missions.