Army awards $662M deal for new recon aircraft

The Army is looking to upgrade its manned airborne surveillance aircraft, awarding Leidos a five-year, $662 million contract for Airborne Reconnaissance Low-Enhanced (ARL-E) systems with new sensors and electronics.

The contract calls for replacing nine ARL-Multifunction systems with nine ARL-E systems through upgrades that include a switch from the existing four-engine Dash 7 turboprop to the two-engine Dash 8-315 Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) aircraft, according to the original solicitation. The aircraft also will get new QRC sensors, including Wide Area Surveillance, Light Detection and Ranging, and Hyper Spectral Imaging. And they will be integrated with the Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A), the Army’s intelligence sharing system.

The ARL-e system is intended to help tactical commanders keep tabs on their operational environment, and identify, track and respond to threats. The system designed for quick plug-and-play in order to allow for various combinations of sensors that can be configured to match a range of missions, the Army said.

In September, the Army awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman to develop a long-range radar for ARL-E. The company said it would develop a synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator by combining the back-end electronics and software from its Gen 2 Vehicle and Dismount and Exploitation Radar, known as VADER, with Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) technology.

On the Leidos contract, the Army Contracting Command said it received three bids. Work is expected to be completed by November 2020.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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