by Ryan Maass
Washington (UPI) Jan 10, 2017
The U.S. Special Operations Command has awarded AAI Corporation with a $475 million contract for mid-endurance unmanned aircraft system services.
Under the contract, the company will be tasked with supporting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities for unmanned aircraft at multiple locations around the globe.
AAI received the contract award as a result of a competitive acquisition. The U.S. Department of Defense did not disclose specific locations for the work, but says it should be complete by July 2022.
Unmanned aircraft systems, such as the General Atomics-made MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper, are used for intelligence gathering as well as targeted strike missions.
The Reaper, one of the latest variants employed by the U.S. armed forces, is armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, can reach a cruise speed of around 230 miles per hour, and has a range of 1,000 nautical miles.
Insitu contracted for additional Blackjack aircraft
The order includes three Blackjack systems for the Navy and three more for the U.S. Marine Corps. Each system is comprised of unmanned aircraft, ground control stations, multi-mission plug-and-play payloads, and additional supporting equipment.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the work will be performed at Insitu's facilities in Bingen, Wash. and Hood River, Ore., and is expected to be complete by February 2018.
Insitu received all funding for the modification at the time of the award. The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Md. is listed as the contracting activity.
The RQ-21A Blackjack is a twin-engine unmanned aircraft used to support maritime and land operations. The vehicle, a larger follow-up to the Scan Eagle, is fitted to perform reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition missions.
The aircraft are able to fly at a range of 50 nautical miles and reach speeds around 80 knots. Standard payloads include electro-optical and infrared cameras for full-motion video, laser rangefinders, communication relays, and Automatic Identification System receives.
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