A new research note from G2 Solutions predicts two U.S. Army acquisition scenarios for the RQ-7 UAS considering the system will remain in the delivery phase. The scenarios developed by the G2 forecast depict a partial recapitalization and a full-system recompete of a tactical UAS, although both assume a level of standardization and backfit/reuse with existing RQ-7. According to G2 Solutions Research Director Ron Stearns, the Army will “likely look for a high Technical Readiness Level (TRL) platform to be fielded quickly, in an effort to manage risk perceptions and move capability quickly to theater.”
“During our research Army announced the cancellation of the Future Combat Systems Class IV UAS, with many in industry wondering how funds would be reallocated, which missions would be prioritized and how these systems would work together” said Stearns. G2 Solutions believes that the Army will require a tactical UAV with payload, range and endurance greater than what RQ-7 or system enhancements will be able to provide. The rotary-wing UAS assumes a larger platform optimized for missions such as resupply, communications, ISR and others. Stearns predicts nearly half of the acquisition revenues derived from these projected programs will be delivered within ten years in the 2018-2021 timeframe.
Product Improvements planned for the Shadow UAS are currently being considered for inclusion in the next increment of Brigade Modernization Program, slated for 2013-2014 timeframe. These capabilities will be tested next year, as the Future Force integration Directorate and Army Evaluation Task Force (ATEF) are expected to move into brigade level testing of Brigade Modernization Systems at Ft. Bliss. Among the new capabilities will be the integration of all unmanned tactical assets including the Class 1 UAV, RQ-11B and the future ‘common controller’, currently employed with or developed for the battalion level, with brigade level assets such as the improved Shadow and ‘One System’ ground control element.
As for a future tactical complement for the Shadow, the Army is closely following the Navy/USMC highly mobile Small Tactical UAS (STUAS) program, currently competing four systems. The systems developed for the STUAS are likely to be considered for the Product Improved Shadow – including a lightweight EO payload, payloads, new radio relays, and improved avionics.