The Navy is planning to conduct a technology demonstration of a logistical replenishment for the service using an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) this summer to inform future development.

Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Experimentation Office (NEO) is working with PMA-263 and IMPAX (NAWCAD’s partner for experimentation, technology demonstrations, and prototyping) to “accelerate the identification and evaluation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) capable of performing autonomous logistical replenishment from shore-to-ship, ship-to-ship, and ship-to-shore,” according to a notice published March 3.

The project is called Blue Water Logistics UAS (BWUAS). The Navy plans to demonstrate this technology in an operationally relevant environment during NAWCAD’s Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) being held this summer.

“NAWCAD is focused on systems that do not require dedicated launch and recovery equipment and can deliver critical equipment supporting distributed maritime operations,” the notice said.

The Navy said the demonstration will specifically inform opportunities for spiral development of contracting strategies, logistical employment, and platforms that can meet the operational requirements.

The notice said this is a multi-step merit-based spiral development selection process to award an Other Transaction (OT) prototype project contract.

In the current Phase 1, this announcement said it will lead to four companies being offered Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) to demonstrate range and shipboard launch, recovery and payload delivery at NAWCAD’s Webster Outlying Field (WOLF) at St. Inigoes, Md.

Phase 2 will occur in FY ‘23 following the previous results and will have the Navy award prototype OTs to up to four companies under the Naval Aviation Systems Consortium (NASC). The Navy said selectees are required to join NASC to receive an award. Phase 2 covers refining system requirements, concept of operations, and business strategies. It also includes a two-week experimentation period aboard both commissioned  (USS) and noncommissioned (USNS) Navy ships.

In FY ‘24 the government will move to Phase 3, where it anticipated negotiating spiral development efforts under Phase 2 OT awards, but only with candidates whose UASs “show the most promise in accomplishing the refined BWUAS objectives.”

The Navy expects the spiral development efforts to include activity in areas like certifications, spares, and any other system requirements to support extended operations aboard naval vessels. Phase 4 is anticipated to include at least a four week fleet deployment to refine UAS logistical attributes and other fleet impacts. 

The notice said if no candidate UASs show promise in accomplishing the refine BWUAS objectives the government is not forced to pursue spiral development and may rather decide to issue a new announcements for BWUAS solutions.

Notably, the Navy said it is seeking “innovative contracting strategies” as part of the non-traditional spiral development approach. 

“These strategies shall account for rapid service to support fleet need and UAS continuous technology advancements, with specific consideration to how different contracting strategies will impact operational tempo, manning, and sparing.”

The government is requesting one or more of any of several strategies: Government-Owned Government-Operated (GOGO), Contractor-Owned Contractor-Operated (COCO), Government-Owned Contractor-Operated (GOCO), and/or other unique industry recommendations.