UTC Aerospace Systems has a new foreign customer for the DB-110 long-range, wide-area tactical reconnaissance sensor, and is expecting more via a new contracting method. Meanwhile, the U.S. Air National Guard (ANG) is planning to buy the MS-110 multispectral version for fitting to MQ-9 Reaper UAVs, following a successful operational assessment. The ANG will thus become the first U.S. domestic customer for the sensor, which has been sold to 14 overseas countries for F-15s, F-16s, Tornados, P-3s, and business jets.
“This is the first time that we have been able to use the indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) method of contracting,” Kevin Raftery, vice president of ISR and space systems for UTC Aerospace Systems, told AIN. “This leverages economies of scale, since our foreign customers are all buying the same sensor and services. It is also much quicker, taking one month instead of 12.” UTC’s initial IDIQ awards have a ceiling of $22.9 million for pods and ground exploitation stations over a one-year period, and $49.9 million for training over a five-year period. The customers will still be using the foreign military sales (FMS) system.
Raftery declined to identify the new customer, but he told AIN that he expects another “four to six” new countries to follow suit by the end of the year. Some of them will buy the MS-110 version. At the Dubai Airshow last November, the UAE Air Force announced that it would be buying the MS-110, adding to the DB-110 system that it has already fielded on its F-16s.
“With the DB-110, an F-16 can be flexibly deployed to conduct peacetime cross-border surveillance from international airspace or, during times of conflict, quickly transit through contested airspace that may be inaccessible to UAVs to conduct time-sensitive tactical reconnaissance missions,” said Mike Don, UTC’s director of international airborne programs.
The recent operational assessment of the DB-110 on a GA-ASI MQ-9 Reaper by the New York ANG is the culmination of a 12-year effort by UTC to field the sensor on the ubiquitous UAV. In 2006, a flying trial was conducted for the UK Ministry of Defence, which elected not to proceed. In 2013, UTC and GA-ASI flew a new lightweight DB-110 pod on a Predator-B owned by NASA. This pod was enhanced for the latest ANG trials, which were completed last fall.
“The ANG has budgeted for the acquisition, and we expect to supply a number of its MQ-9 squadrons,” Raftery told AIN. He said that the ANG will conduct a final operational trial using the MS-110 sensor, which is particularly suited to the ANG’s intended primary mission. This is to conduct wide-area assessments of domestic natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, and floods.
“The advent of multispectral capability is a game-changer, especially because the short-wave infrared band cuts through smoke and haze so effectively,” said Raftery. He noted that the concept had already been tested on a U.S. Air Force U-2 using the Senior Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System, from which the DB-110 and MS-110 are derived.