The Army on Friday released its request for white papers to industry kickstarting the competitive prototyping effort for its Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS) program, with plans to field an initial capability in fiscal year 2023.

“The solicitation to industry comes after a year of feedback and data from Soldiers who field tested four vertical takeoff and landing unmanned aircraft systems as part of our ‘Buy, Try, Inform’ process,” Col. Chad Chasteen, the Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team G3/5/7 director, said in a statement. “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.”

Army Futures Command’s Future Vertical Lift cross-functional team, in conjunction with the Army Program Executive Office – Aviation, Aviation Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate, and the Maneuver Battle Lab, conducted flight tests and maneuvers on Feb. 25-26, 2021 at Leyte West Airfield, Fort Benning, Georgia. (U.S. Army Photo by Mr. Luke J. Allen)

The Army’s Program Manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems office previously confirmed to Defense Daily that a downselect decision for systems to participate in the competitive prototyping phase for the Shadow drone replacement program is set to be made in the third quarter of FY ‘22 (Defense Daily, Aug. 20).

In mid-August, the Army signed off on the Abbreviated Capability Development Document (A-CDD) for FTUAS after spending more than a year evaluating four potential offerings to inform requirements development (Defense Daily, Aug. 16). 

The platforms that participated in the evaluation process over the preceding year were Martin UAV’s V-Bat, Textron’s [TXT] AAI Corp.’s Aersonde, L3Harris’ [LHX] FVR-90, and Aerovironment’s Arcturus JUMP 20.

The evaluation effort culminated in a ‘rodeo’ event to test each of the systems and gather further feedback from soldiers, with officials noting the four UAS platforms received high marks for operating in inclement weather, demonstrating runway-independence and vertical takeoff and landing, their “significantly quieter” acoustic signature and the ability to command and control on the move (Defense Daily, March 2). 

Brig. Gen. Rob Barrie, the Army’s Program Executive Officer for Aviation, has said the Army will utilize a full and open competition for both the FTUAS prototyping phase and the eventual production award, while adding that the four participants in the evaluation period will have a “firmer understanding” of how the Army arrived at its final requirements.

A production decision for FTUAS is likely to occur in FY ‘25 following the competitive prototyping phase.

Responses to the Army’s white papers request are due back by Sept. 17.