Northrop Grumman and Shield AI have been selected for the next stage of the US Army’s Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS) Programme.

The Increment (Inc) 2 contract will allow the Northrop Grumman-led team to determine the modular open-system architecture of their enhanced V-BAT uncrewed aircraft system (UAS).

The team will also work on the integration of advanced surveillance and electronic warfare payloads onto the V-BAT platform.

The contract has a performance period of seven weeks.

Northrop Grumman autonomous and tactical air systems vice-president Angela Johns said: “Our team’s enhanced V-BAT embodies more than 30 years of experience designing, delivering and sustaining advanced uncrewed aircraft systems, combined with a field-proven platform and production facilities.

“We bring a unique perspective and capabilities to this critical Army mission.”

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The two companies have pitched enhanced V-BAT UAS, which has been designed and developed by Shield AI, for the US Army’s FTUAS programme.

FTUAS is the US Army’s premier vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAS modernisation programme, which aims to replace the service’s long-serving fleet of RQ-7B Shadow tactical UAS.

V-BAT is a compact and lightweight platform that can be quickly launched and recovered by a combat team of two soldiers deployed in complex and on-the-move contested scenarios.

It is simple to operate and features increased power and long-term adaptability, with fewer logistics tail and capacity requirements for carrying different interchangeable payloads.

According to Northrop Grumman, V-BAT can be used for delivering persistent aerial reconnaissance for the US Army’s Brigade Combat Teams, Special Forces and Ranger battalions.

In September 2021, Northrop Grumman and Shield AI’s subsidiary Martin UAV concluded a flight test of the V-BAT UAS to assess and validate its target designation and GPS-denied navigation capabilities.