The Navy on Nov. 5 announced its intention to issue a sole source contract to Textron [TXT] to extend Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) services aboard an expeditionary sea base (ESB) for at least another year.

Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) specifically said the Program Executive office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons (PEO U&W) intends to issue a firm-fixed-price contract with Textron to extend UAS ISR services aboard the USS

Hershel “Woody” Williams (ESB-4) for a one-year base period. The contract will include two 12-month and two six-month options. 

The work will rest within PEO U&W’s Navy and Marine Corps Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (STUAS) Program Office, PMA-263.

The notice said this work will be “providing critical UAS ISR services in direct support of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM).”

ESB-4 is forward-deployed to Souda Bay, Greece as the first ship assigned to the AFRICOM area of operations where it conducts missions in the Mediterranean as well as waters around East, South, and West Africa like the Gulf of Guinea.

According to a Defense Department photo page of ESB-4 operating an Aerosonde UAS, the vehicle provides live aerial surveillance to bolster ship security while piloted by company personnel aboard the vessel.

The Navy said this contract falls under regulation authority for only one responsible source and no other type of supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements.

The notice said that “unless otherwise stated herein, no formal request for proposal or additional written information is currently available.”

The notice did not disclose the contract’s value or when it will be awarded.

However, it noted that any subcontracting opportunities should be directed at Textron. 

While the notice did not disclose the specific UAS platform, it likely is extending work it awarded in August 2018, when Textron received a task order from NAVAIR for sea-based ISR services via its Aerosonde Small UAS.

The company said the contract covered contractor-owned and operated services for operations aboard an ESB. That order was part of the Close Range Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) ISR Services Indefinite-Quantity, Indefinite-Delivery (IDIQ) contract awarded in June 2017.

At the time, the company said with at-sea operations using the Aerosonde they use a single turntable for  vertical take-off launch and recovery landing, which allows a roll-on/roll-off capability “with a small footprint, and no structural shipboard modifications required.”

According to a Textron product web page, the Aerosonde as powered by a Lycoming EL-005 heavy-fuel engine, has “negligible” visual and auditory signatures, a payload of up to 20 pounds, upward of 14 hours of endurance, and weighs up to 80 pounds. Its wingspan is 12 feet, has a 10-15,000 foot operating ceiling, and a range of 75 nautical miles. Lycoming is an operating division of Avco Corporation, which is a subsidiary of Textron.

The company said its payload capabilities include full-motion video and day/night imaging, voice communications relay, synthetic aperture radar, electronic warfare, signals intelligence, communications intelligence, 3D mapping, and automating identification systems.

ESBs are modular ships that aim to support various maritime missions like special operations, airborne mine countermeasures, and humanitarian support. They have a four spot flight deck as well as a hangar and flexible mission deck. ESBs are designed around four capacities including aviation facilities, berthing, equipment staging support and command and control assets.