The US Army announced on 15 November that FLIR Systems has been awarded a contract to produce up to 350 Kobra unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) to fulfil the US Army's Common Robotic System - Heavy (CRS-H) requirement.
The USD109 million hybrid (cost-plus-fixed fee and firm-fixed price) contract will run for five years with an estimated completion date of 12 November 2024. Deliveries are slated to begin in the third-quarter of fiscal year FY 2020. The contract will include refurbishment of systems, as well as associated spare parts, test support, user training support, and logistics development.
The CRS-H platform's basic operational capability requirements stipulate the robot, weighing up to 317.5 kg (700 lb), having a platform speed of 10 km/h (6 mph), as well as an ability to lift up to 125 kg and reach 1.8 m (6 ft). However, the Kobra has a lift capacity of 150 kg and can stretch up to 3.5 m to access hard-to-reach places. A variety of sensors and payloads will be added to the UGV to support other missions, along with a radio relay to extend the vehicle's operational range in urban terrain.
The Kobra demonstrated its capabilities by participating in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Subterranean (SubT) Challenge, which is aimed at developing technologies to augment underground operations. The Kobra was used to map out larger spaces, with areas such as vertical shafts being mapped out by an unmanned aerial vehicle deployed from the Kobra.
Recognising that the legacy US Department of Defense acquisition strategy is outdated in terms of the speed at which it can field equipment, the US Army used the Other Transaction Authority (OTA) acquisition strategy for its CRS-H procurement, which ensured that the contract could be awarded within a year-and-a-half of capability document approval. OTA agreements are used by federal agencies to advance research and development (R&D) projects and prototypes.
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