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US Navy grows fleet of ships conducting contractor-owned/contactor-operated UAS operations

The US Navy is using UASs on more ships using contractor-owned/contractor-operated contracting models. (Textron Systems)

With the recent award of contract for unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operational support on two Independence-class littoral combat ships (LCSs) and one Freedom-class LCS, US Navy (USN) Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) now has seven ships conducting operations with the Textron Systems Aerosonde UAS, Textron Systems confirmed.

Textron Systems was awarded an initial contract worth up to USD19.5 million on 9 August to provide UAS operational support to LCS variants. The company noted it already provides such support for Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB)-4 and ESB-5, as well as two guided-missile destroyers (DDGs).

USN officials have been touting the benefits of the contractor-owned/contactor-operated model for introducing and honing unmanned systems and missions into fleet operations.

β€œThe contractor-owned/contactor-operated model provides a lower-risk option for the navy to support their growing surface fleet and rapidly introduce additional unmanned capabilities,” Wayne Prender, senior vice-president of Textron Systems Air Systems, told Janes.

Textron Systems will deploy its Aerosonde UAS to provide mission overwatch and extended intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) services with enhanced mission payloads as seen aboard the ESB-5, the company confirmed.

The Textron Systems UAS is designed for expeditionary land- and sea-based operations with both fixed-wing and vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) options.

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