The Army in early 2023 hopes to conduct demonstrations of systems that can detect and defeat relatively large small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) using kinetic effects and, if successful, may award prototype contracts.

The Joint Counter-sUAS Office (JCO) says the upcoming competitive demonstrations will “accelerate attainment” of these C-sUAS capabilities.

“The overarching government objective is to rapidly procure production representative, cost-effective detect, track, identify and defeat system(s) for Group 3 sUAS threats for the full threat envelope, including at a distance greater than or equal to 2 km in distance,” says the Nov. 18 notice published in the government’s business opportunities website

Group 3 UAS have a maximum gross take-off weight less than 1,320 pounds.

By Nov. 29, the JCO wants white papers from interested parties whose C-sUAS systems will be operationally ready for testing by Jan. 3, 2023. It says system setup will begin on Jan. 16.

The announcement highlights that the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act directed the JCO to prioritize C-sUAS that meet immediate operational needs but doesn’t identify a specific urgent operational need for the kinetic C-sUAS capability sought. The JCO does say it wants capabilities quickly, which it specifies as between 30 and 90 days from contract award for delivery of the first production systems.

Both sides in Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine are using small drones of various sizes with video and photos of these systems in use regularly uploaded to social media sites like Twitter. Russia has been launching Iranian-supplied drones such as the Shahed-136, which weighs over 400 pounds and is affixed with a warhead, to attack Ukrainian infrastructure and other targets.

Exportability is one element of the types of systems the JCO is seeking.

“This demonstration result may be used to inform security cooperation cases and to support the US Government providing C-sUAS capability to allies and partners,” the JCO notice says. “For this reason, the ability to obtain technology releases and build in exportability features, to include anti-tamper, is necessary to support potential follow-on activities and preferably in initial awards.”

There are four phases to the new demonstration effort, with the first phase being white paper submission. The second phase, by invitation only, is the demonstration of selected systems, which will be operated by the submitting companies against low and slow Group 3 sUAS, which is 1,000 to 2,000 feet above ground level flying between 100 to 120 miles per hour.

Phase 3 is submission of prototype proposals, which is also by invitation only. If the JCO decides not to hold the demonstration due to a lack of funding, the government may issue a request for proposals based on the white paper submissions. Phase 4 is the award phase and will be made based on “the overall best value to the government” and funding availability, the JCO says. At least one award and perhaps more are expected, it says.

Awards will be made using Other Transaction Agreements, which are used to get on contract quickly. There is the potential for follow-on production of successful prototype projects without further competition.

The demonstration planned for January would precede another that JCO has planned next May that was announced in October. The spring event will also evaluate capabilities against Group 3 sUAS but at distances against targets that are at least four kilometers slant range. The target UAS for the May demonstration will be flying low and slow, and high and fast, which is between 5,000 and 7,000 feet above ground level and between 200 and 240 miles per hour.