The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) plans to conduct flying demonstrations of multiple armed overwatch aircraft this year, paving the way for procurement to start in fiscal 2022. The forthcoming demonstration could help furnish lawmakers — who opposed funding the procurement of five armed overwatch planes in FY21. U.S. Air Force has tapped five companies to compete in its armed overwatch program for a new attack aircraft, awarding $19.2 million in contracts among the vendors.
The selected companies will now build and fly prototype aircraft in a series of demonstrations at Eglin Air Force Base, Floria. Those competitors include:
L3Harris Technologies’ AT-802U Sky Warden
Leidos’ Bronco II
Textron Aviation Defense’s AT-6E Wolverine
Sierra Nevada Corp.’s MC-145B Wily Coyote
MAG Aerospace’s MC-208 Guardian
U.S. Special Operations Command requested $101 million in fiscal year 2021 to buy the first five armed overwatch aircraft and announced plans to purchase up to 75 planes total to replace the U-28 Draco. However, Congress made major cuts to the program and included language in the defense policy bill that would prohibit SOCOM from being able to buy armed overwatch aircraft in FY21. With the funding appropriated by Congress in FY21, SOCOM will be able to conduct a demonstration of off-the-shelf aircraft.
The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command envisions its armed overwatch platform as a reconfigurable, multi-mission aircraft that will conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions and perform close air support of ground forces. The aircraft, which will be flown only in uncontested environments such as in Africa, will be able to operate in austere conditions using a very minimal logistics footprint.