The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has issued an RFP for contractors to operate unmanned aerial vehicles for the purposes of gathering intelligence and conducting surveillance and reconnaissance. Contractors supply the pilots, the aircraft and the support systems.
SOCOM’s current Mid-Endurance Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations and Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance Support contract (MEUAS II) is set to expire. Under the current contract, SOCOM has obligated more than $150 million to incumbents Insitu (a division of Boeing), and Textron Systems, with $71 million spent in fiscal 2014 alone.
The new request for proposals for MEUAS III is seeking to fill two requirements for drone operations, for “Line of Sight” (LoS) operations and “Beyond Line of Sight” (BLoS) operations. Simply put, in LoS pilots can see the drones they are piloting with their own eyes, and in BLoS, they cannot.
Per the RFP, SOCOM’s drone operations are based in six locations. Past contracting documents indicate that operations are primarily based in Afghanistan, with other activity based in Somalia, Yemen, the Philippines, and in the U.S. out of Washington State. The sixth location is not identified in contract information.
SOCOM is seeking contractors to pilot drones on a 24/7 basis, and provide maintenance and engineering services. The statement of work and other detailed documentation for MEUAS III is not classified, but access is restricted to firms who are registered to do business as U.S. contractors. The MEUAS II statement of work specifies that launch time from receipt of a request must be no longer than 30 minutes, that aircraft be able to return to pre-programmed locations in the event the data link between the base and the vehicle is lost, and that video be sufficiently crisp to allow an analyst to distinguish whether “a human target is holding a weapon such as a rifle or rocket propelled grenade, or a shovel” from a range of 4,242 feet away. All deployed contractor operations, per the 2010 document, will take place on “controlled, secure, limited access compound locations.”
Proposals are due May 6. An award is anticipated in November.