WASHINGTON — U.S. Particular Operations Command on Monday introduced it has chosen the AT-802U Sky Warden, made by L3Harris Applied sciences and Air Tractor, for its Armed Overwatch program.
The indefinite supply, indefinite amount contract will probably be price as much as $3 billion, L3Harris stated in a launch Monday. The preliminary program contract award is for $170 million.
Air Tractor is an plane producer from Olney, Texas, that usually makes firefighting plane and agricultural planes resembling crop dusters.
Preliminary manufacturing of the Sky Warden will happen at Air Tractor’s facility in Olney. L3Harris will then modify these planes into the Armed Overwatch mission configuration at its Tulsa, Oklahoma modification middle, starting in 2023. L3Harris stated work may even happen at its different websites in Greenville, Rockwall and Waco, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee.
Air Pressure Particular Operations Command’s Armed Overwatch program goals to construct a fleet of as much as 75 versatile, fixed-wing plane appropriate for deployment to austere areas, with little logistical tail wanted to maintain them working.
SOCOM is planning for the single-engine Sky Warden, as AFSOC’s Armed Overwatch airplane, to have the ability to present shut air assist, precision strike and armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions for counterterrorism operations and irregular warfare.
AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Jim Slife stated final yr he hopes Armed Overwatch plane will probably be suited to strain extremist teams in locations like Africa, during which the airspace is basically uncontested.
The Air Pressure moved to determine a sequence of Armed Overwatch planes because it shifted its main focus — and a few of its extra complicated and expensive-to-operate fighters and bombers — away from combating terrorist teams and violent extremist organizations in locations just like the Center East.
“Armed Overwatch solutions a vital want for U.S. Particular Operations Command to conduct a variety of operations globally in assist of the Nationwide Protection Technique,” SOCOM Commander Gen. Richard Clarke stated in a launch. “This rugged, sustainable platform will function in permissive environments and austere circumstances around the globe to safeguard our particular operations forces on the bottom.”
SOCOM stated the airplane could be low value, in a position to take off and land in austere fields, fly for lengthy durations, and assist a wide range of modular payloads.
Final yr, Slife prompt Armed Overwatch would enable AFSOC to take its growing older and costly U-28A Draco ISR plane — a uncommon plane that requires specialised gear and coaching to take care of — out of the sphere.
However SOCOM stated in a press release to Air Pressure Instances on Monday that even after the Sky Warden is delivered, the U-28 will nonetheless be wanted to supply ISR for operations like search and rescue and humanitarian reduction.
Clarke informed lawmakers final yr he envisions 4 operational squadrons of 15 Armed Overwatch planes, with one deployed at any given time whereas the opposite three prepare, recuperate and are maintained at house. Clarke additionally stated a fifth squadron of 10 to fifteen planes could be for coaching.
L3Harris beat out 4 different opponents — Leidos, MAG Aerospace, Textron Aviation Protection and Sierra Nevada — for the Armed Overwatch contract. These 5 corporations produced prototype plane that have been evaluated, primarily at Eglin Air Pressure Base in Florida, in late 2021 and early 2022.
L3Harris stated it would transfer quick to show its prototype plane into the manufacturing configuration, and permit SOCOM to begin testing later this yr.
Six planes will probably be delivered within the first low-rate preliminary manufacturing lot.
Underneath the contract, L3Harris additionally would supply coaching programs, mission planning programs, assist gear, spares and logistical assist.
The Sky Warden is anticipated to succeed in preliminary working functionality in fiscal 2026, and full working functionality in 2029, SOCOM stated.
Rachel Cohen contributed to this report.