The US Special Operations Command is looking for a new contractor to provide and manage a fleet of medium-range unmanned aerial vehicles,, and has put out the call to industry ahead of an early 2015 lapse in its contractor-provided ISR support.
While details are classified, the Medium Endurance Unmanned Air System (MEUAS III) bid would be a follow-on to the February 2013 deal with Boeing subsidiary Insitu Inc. to provide ScanEagle aircraft for ISR missions.
The commando command inked the $190 million, 25-month deal with Insitu after a previous contract with Textron’s AAI fell through.
While little is known as to what happened between SOCOM and AAI, we do know that the company beat out Insitu in Feb. 2012 for the drone services bid, signing three-year, $600 million deal to provide its Aerosonde small UAV.
But just a year later—after reports of the Aerosonde having propulsion problems—SOCOM issued a statement that it was signing a new deal with Insitu, as “due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the Government’s control, there is an immediate requirement to mitigate a critical ISR services gap. This proposed contract action is to ensure continued operational capability.”
The ScanEagle, which weighs 30 to 40 pounds, can travel about 80 knots and stay aloft for up to 24 hours at a time, reaching a ceiling of over 19,000 feet. Insitu began performing fee-for-service operations with the drone in support of the US Marine Corpsduring their 2004 fight in Fallujah, Iraq.
SOCOM held a series of meetings with industry reps in early December, and word is expected soon as to the next step in moving forward with the programme.