U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is requesting $193 million for the Armed Overwatch program in fiscal 2022, including $170 million in procurement for six aircraft.

The $193 million would be an increase of $147 million from the $46 million provided by Congress in fiscal 2021 for the program.

SOCOM is to evaluate five offerings for Armed Overwatch during a series of flight tests from June 14 to July 23 at Eglin AFB, Fla. (Defense Daily, May 18).

The announcement arrives after SOCOM awarded $19.2 million in contracts to five firms on May 14 for prototype demonstrations, as the command aims to inform a potential production decision in fiscal year 2022.

The five participants selected to participate in the Armed Overwatch evaluation are L3Harris Technologies’ [LHX] AT-802U Sky Warden, Leidos’ [LDOS] Bronco II, MAG Aerospace’s MC-208 Guardian, Sierra Nevada Corp.’s MC-145B Wily Coyote and Textron’s [TXT] AT-6E Wolverine.

“We have high confidence that each of these platforms can meet our requirements,” Jim Smith, SOCOM’s acquisition executive, told reporters last month.

Armed Overwatch is SOCOM’s program to find a near-production ready small attack aircraft capable of providing commanders with armed reconnaissance, strike coordination and reconnaissance, and airborne forward air control “in austere and permissive environments for the Countering-Violent Extremist Organizations” mission.

SOCOM also is interested in exploring manned-unmanned teaming with Armed Overwatch aircraft and their ability to employ new Air Launched Effects.

While the U.S. Air Force cut short its low-cost attack aircraft program, SOCOM took up the slack in the command’s Armed Overwatch program.