By B.C. Kessner

The Navy yesterday said it awarded two fixed-price contracts–$29.9 million to Boeing [BA]- Frontier Systems and $45.8 million Lockheed Martin [LMT]–for Cargo Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) services.

“We are trying to get this much needed capability to the warfighter as quickly as possible,” Rear Adm. Bill Shannon, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, said in a statement. “By evaluating two different systems, we have the ability to accelerate development of technology and use it immediately to support the warfighter while maintaining competition.”

Lockheed Martin and teammate Kaman [KAMN] in October formally offered the K-MAX unmanned helicopter in response to Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) request for a Cargo UAS (Defense Daily, Nov. 5). Boeing also submitted its A160T Hummingbird bid for the contract that is in response to an urgent needs requirement in support of Marine Corps forces in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF).

NAVAIR said this capability will augment ground and air logistics operations, supplement rotary-wing assets and reduce warfighters’ exposure to Improved Explosive Devices in theater.

Both contracts include development of two air vehicles, three remote ground control stations and a Quick Reaction Assessment (QRA). The systems will be government-owned and contractor-operated. Each contract also includes a separate fixed-price option for a six-month deployment.

In order to meet the operational needs of the Marine Corps, the Navy made a decision to award two contracts to reduce potential deployment delays and inability to meet performance requirements.

The Navy will conduct a QRA in summer 2011 to prove systems’ ability to sustain cargo-carrying capability in an operational environment. Immediately following a successful QRA, one contractor’s in-country service option will be exercised and their system will deploy to OEF.

“While we only plan on deploying one system after a successful QRA, we will explore options for using the second system for future operational missions and/or science and technology development, should it also meet performance requirements,” Capt. Tim Dunigan, Program Manger for Navy and Marine Corps Multi-Mission Tactical Unmanned Air Systems (PMA-266), added.

The Navy intends to field Cargo UAS in fall 2011 for a six-month deployment. After the initial deployment, Navy and Marine Corps leadership will assess the value of the capability and determine if an extension or re-compete contract should be pursued.