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US Army options Textron Systems, Griffon Aerospace to fly FTUAS competitors

Textron Systems' Aerosonde UAV. (Textron)

The US Army on 25 April declared Option 2 of the Future Tactical Uncrewed Aircraft System (FTUAS) Rapid Prototyping Program finished, exercising Options 3 and 4 for both Textron Systems and Griffon Aerospace to build and test production-representative Aerosonde Mk 4.8 and Valiant UASs respectively.

“FTUAS program Options 3 and 4 give us the opportunity to demonstrate our Aerosonde Mk 4.8 HQ [Hybrid Quadrotor] UAS and further advance its capabilities before delivering a system for customer test and evaluation,” said Wayne Prender, Textron Systems' senior vice-president for Air Systems, in a statement.

Griffon Aerospace told Janes that the company was “honoured and excited” to be included in the award but declined to respond to further questions.

Five companies competed for the initial FTUAS contract, of which only two – Griffon Aerospace and Textron Systems – made the Option 2 cut-off.

In September 2023 the US Army selected the Griffon Aerospace Valiant and Textron Systems Aerosonde Mk 4.8 HQ for the second phase of FTUAS, which advanced the two designs through critical design review (CDR), the last step before building and testing a prototype aircraft.

Option 3 is intended to result in flightworthy prototype aircraft, and will also include modular open systems architecture (MOSA) systems verification to ensure that critical systems can be swapped for others as needed. Option 4 entails delivering production-representative UASs to the army for further evaluation, including electromagnetic and environmental evaluations in addition to flight tests; the option is to conclude with a production readiness review.

FTUAS is intended to replace the Textron RQ-7B Shadow with a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAS to provide reconnaissance to army tactical units.

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