The Army has selected AeroVironment [AVAV], Griffon Aerospace

, Northrop Grumman [NOC], Sierra Nevada Corporation and Textron Systems [TXT] for the service’s rapid prototyping effort to inform its search for an enduring Shadow drone replacement.

The five firms selected for the Future Tactical UAS (FTUAS) Inc. 2 program will work under prototyping agreements potentially ranging from $1 million to $25 million based on how far each vendor “progresses through the base and option periods,” the Army said Tuesday.

Spc. Christopher McCoy assigned to 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, conducts an engine start on the Arcturus UAV JUMP 20 before a launch during the FTUAS capabilities assessment at Fort Riley, Kansas, April 8, 2020 (Photo Credit: Program Executive Office Aviation)

“The FTUAS Inc. 2 program leverages lessons-learned from previous efforts including a prior year-long FTUAS demonstration, to field a FTUAS meeting the Army Abbreviated Capabilities Development Document requirements,” the Army said. “Inc. 2 will also continue to inform the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities, and policy requirements leading to a follow-on production and fielding effort.”

FTUAS is the Army’s program to field a new capability to replace its RQ-7B Shadow drone, built by Textron, with the service announcing last August it selected AeroVironment’s JUMP 20 system for the first increment of the program to meet an immediate operational need and inform requirements for the eventual enduring capability (Defense Daily, Aug. 19).

Under the $8 million FTUAS Inc. 1 deal, AeroVironment was tasked with delivering one JUMP 20 system consisting of six air vehicles, ground data terminals and ground control stations, with options for the Army to potentially procure seven additional systems.

FTUAS Inc. 2 is running in parallel with the Inc. 1 effort and will consist of “five distinct development phases including a base and four option periods occurring between 2023 and 2025,” according to the Army.

“We’re excited to announce we’ve been notified of a successful down select for the U.S. Army’s FTUAS Inc. 2 program. Our Aerosonde Mk. 4.8 HQ UAS was designed with a Modular Open Systems Approach, bringing unparalleled mission capability and flexibility,” Textron Systems said in a social media post following the announcement. 

The prototyping effort will begin with a series of design reviews, with plans for selected vendors to conduct flight demonstrations with their capabilities in the program’s third option phase.

In the fourth option of FTUAS Inc. 2, the remaining vendors will be tasked with each delivering “four air vehicles, mission system packages, payload packages, ground controllers, and two OTM controllers, all required maintenance tools and manuals, and all necessary ground support equipment for qualification testing and operational assessment,” the Army said. 

“These systems will undergo numerous evaluation activities such as environmental testing, electromagnetic environmental effects testing, [Modular Open Systems Architecture] verification, and flight qualification testing conducted at PAH and government test facilities,” the Army said in a statement. 

The Army has said FTUAS aims to replace the Shadow drone with a “vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), runway-independent, reduced acoustic signature aircraft that can be transported organically while providing commanders with ‘on the move’ reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition capabilities.

“The FTUAS Inc. 2 will improve the brigade combat team’s ability to conduct reconnaissance and surveillance operations that collect, develop, and report actionable intelligence information about the enemy in degraded Global Positioning System environments,” the Army said on Tuesday.