Sept. 9 (UPI) — The U.S. Army is accepting pitches from industry for a replacement for its unmanned RQ-7B Shadow aircraft, according to an updated request for proposals published this week by the branch.
Specifically, the Army is looking for quieter tactical drones that can be transported easily and can take off and land vertically, unlike the runway-dependent Shadow, according to the Army’s request for white papers.
Part of the Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System Increment 1, the Army is seeking drones that can provide commanders with “on the move” reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition capabilities.
The Army Requirements Oversight Council approved the system’s requirement in August and its initial fielding is expected in the 2023 fiscal year, with industry product pitches due by Sept. 22.
The request comes after a year-long effort to get feedback from soldiers who field-tested four vertical unmanned aircraft systems with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities.
Col. Chad Chasteen, the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team G3/5/7 director, said the feedback was part of the Army’s “Buy, Try, Inform” process that will expedite the acquisition.
“This streamlined the acquisition process to have well-informed requirements in less than 18 months, which puts us on an expedited path to getting the capability into the hands of our soldiers,” Chasteen said Tuesday in a press release.
Army senior aviation officials in March watched a demonstration of four drone prototypes that could replace the 30-year-old RQ-7B Shadow.
The demonstration took place during rainy conditions in Fort Benning, Ga., and included the Arcturus Jump 20, L3 Harris Unmanned Systems FVR-90, Martin UAV V-Bat and Textron Systems Aerosonde Hybrid Quad.
The results of the demonstration were used to finalize requirements for the Army Requirements Oversight Council.
Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, director of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team, told Military.com at the time that the Shadow can’t fly in the rain or moist conditions and a replacement is needed quickly.
“The field is clamoring for this capability, and so I would say that I am not overstating it by saying that the Army is looking for opportunities to get this in the hands of soldiers rapidly,” Rugen said.