The Army is working to prepare for a spring deployment of the Army Argus Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) to Afghanistan as part of its vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aircraft system modernization program, a service official said.

Army leaders support the UAS office VTOL strategy and the capability, something “we believe is truly going to be a game changer,” said Lt. Col. Matt Munster, product manager, UAS Modernization in Program Executive Office Aviation.

Munster is working two programs, the Army Argus QRC and the VTOL program of record, he said at a recent Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) conference in Washington, D.C.

The QRC is expected to be deployed in March, and composed of three Boeing [BA] A-160 Hummingbird vertical lift air vehicles, he said. They will carry the BAE Systems Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Imaging System (ARGUS-IS) next generation wide area surveillance sensor developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, as well as other signals intelligence payloads.

“This QRC is important in that first, it gets the capability to our soldiers sooner, it allows the Army to continue to refine the requirements for the VTOL program of record and we’re going to take those lessons learned and feed them into the program of record that we’re working,” Munster said.

The Army acquisition strategy for the VTOL program of record is to compete two QRC contracts to vendors to deploy technology demonstrators for up to a year, and then select one vendor to continue development and production of the VTOL, Munster said.

“Currently we are in participating in Alternatives of Analysis with the Navy, this is going very well, both services are able to leverage commonality and the effort is ongoing right now,” he said.

A number of companies with vertical lift UAS are interested in the program, to include the Kaman Aerospace-Lockheed Martin [LMT] K-Max, and Northrop Grumman’s [NOC] Fire-X.