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AFSOC looks at Armed Overwatch demonstration in near term

The head of US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) expects a flying demonstration for Armed Overwatch candidate aircraft to take place in the coming months.

Lieutenant General James Slife said on 16 February that the Armed Overwatch aircraft will have some reconfigurable intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability and, when needed, will provide close air support (CAS) for ground forces. Lt Gen Slife said that the Armed Overwatch platform will be a multirole aircraft capable of operating with a light logistics footprint in small disaggregated teams in highly austere regions.

Lt Gen Slife would like to have an Armed Overwatch procurement in fiscal year (FY) 2022. He said Congress provided funding in FY 2021 for both research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) and procurement efforts, but that he does not expect aircraft procurement until FY 2022 at the earliest. The RDT&E funding is for the demonstration to inform a final requirements document before a procurement decision.

US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), which is running the Armed Overwatch acquisition, is looking at several aircraft that would be capable of fulfilling the mission requirement, Lt Gen Slife said. He declined to say what an acquisition programme would look like before having the flight demonstration.

“Whether it would look like a single platform, or whether it would look like multiple platforms, or whether leasing might be part of that, we are too far out from that,” Lt Gen Slife said during an Air Force Association (AFA) event. “We need to get through this demo to see what industry can produce at low risk in a short order.”

It is unclear whether SOCOM is still considering unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the Armed Overwatch procurement. Janes

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