The Navy has awarded two of the four contracts it plans to give industry for the recently revamped MQ-25 unmanned aircraft program.
Boeing [BA] and Lockheed Martin [LMT] received one-year contracts worth $43.4 million and $43.6 million, respectively, to refine concepts for the aircraft carrier-based drone, the Pentagon said late Sept. 23. “We look forward to working with the U.S. Navy to get an affordable unmanned vehicle on-board its carrier fleet,” Boeing said in a statement.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) and Northrop Grumman [NOC] will get similar contracts in the coming weeks, said Capt. Beau Duarte, program manager for unmanned carrier aviation at Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR).
The four companies were previously vying for the MQ-25’s short-lived predecessor, the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program. While UCLASS was intended to focus on collecting intelligence, the MQ-25’s main role will be aerial refueling.
According to a March report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Navy plans to spend more than $2 billion on the new program from fiscal year 2017 through FY 2021. The Navy also intends to award an air system development contract early in FY 2018 and achieve an initial operational capability by the mid-2020s, the GAO wrote.