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UK launches Project Aether for stratospheric global comms, ISR

BAE Systems' PHASA-35 persistent high-altitude uncrewed aircraft is one system that could potentially be demonstrated to the UK MoD for its Project Aether requirement. (BAE Systems)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has issued a tender for a demonstration of an uncrewed stratospheric communications and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability with a global reach in near-real time.

Released on 9 December, the Project Aether tender covers a 19-month effort from 31 May 2022 through to 31 December 2023, and is valued at up to GBP100 million (USD132 million).

โ€œThe [MoD] has a developing requirement to demonstrate ultra-persistent wide area communications with ISR, using stratospheric uncrewed air systems that can be rapidly manoeuvred to an area of interest that is anywhere in the world,โ€ the tender said. โ€œThe information must be available in near-real time, and be exploited using a range of existing resources. The capability must be on task for several months at a time with minimal resupply or maintenance effort.โ€

According to the MoD, there is to be no down-selection to any specific numbers of bidders at this stage, only companies who can demonstrate relevance to the subject matter of the lots within the tender framework through their previous or existing portfolio of work (of which examples are requested) will pass the pre-qualification questionnaire and be considered eligible to receive an invitation to tender at the next stage of the competition.

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