The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) intends to release a solicitation for the MQ-25 Air System Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) Program to Boeing [BA], General Atomics [GA], Lockheed Martin [LMT], and Northrop Grumman [NOC], according to a May 26 notice on FedBizOpps.

The notice explains the solicitation for the MQ-25 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) will only be issued to those four companies based on laws allowing limited competition when “there are only a limited number of responsible sources and no other supplies or services will satisfy agency requirements.”

The X-47B is refueled in flight over the Chesapeake Bay April 22. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)
The X-47B is refueled in flight over the Chesapeake Bay April 22. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)

The MQ-25 Stingray’s main role will be aerial refueling. The Navy says will allow it “to make better use of our combat strike fighters and extend the range of our aircraft carriers,” according to a website on the program.

The Navy’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request asked for $222 million in research and development funds directed to the MQ-25 program.

The four companies included in the solicitation previously received one-year contracts last fall to refine concepts for the MQ-25.

The Navy says these companies have refined their solutions and matured their technology associated with the unmanned carrier-based aviation need. An award to any other contractor “would result in significant schedule delays and require substantial duplication of costs which are not expected to be recouped by the Government through full and open competition,” the notice says.

NAVAIR also says it intends to release a solicitation for an accompanying contract for studies and analysis supporting the MQ-EMD Program. This too will only be limited to the four companies given that they are only potential sources to support the program.

This notice to the industry is one of the final steps before NAVAIR posts the request for proposals (RFP) for the unmanned carrier-based refueling aircraft.

In April, NAVAIR announced it completed a demonstration that showed how an aircraft carrier will control the UAS. The draft RFP for the MQ-25 air segment is expected to be released soon, with a final RFP expected in the summer and a development contract awarded to one of the four competitors in 2018.