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Boeing, Northrop Grumman to Develop New Unmanned Aerial Systems

Two recent contracts awarded by the U.S. Department of Defense unveil yet unpublished UAV development programs underway at Northrop Grumman and Boeing.

On April 29 the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) awarded Boeing's McDonnell Douglas Corp. subsidiary a one-year contract (with four annual options) to build a Mid Endurance Unmanned Aircraft System (MEUAS). The program was announced last December. SOCOM is expected to award another contract anticipating a competition for the final system by the year 2014. MEUAS will be designed to provide Information gathering, Target surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Services in support of the U.S. Special Operations. The development is managed under Program Executive Office - Fixed Wing at SOCOM.  The fixed price contract could be worth up to $250 million. The current obligation was not detailed.

Last week the U.S. Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman about $50 million for research and evaluation of a Small Unmanned Aerial System. According to the vague language of the award, the program "focus on the translation of promising basis and applied research into technology solutions for well-defined military needs and to affect rapid transition of small unmanned aerial system concepts and component improvements to warfighter applications."

Both companies have not been involved with such fixed-wing designs before. Boeing has been developing the rotary wing A-160T while Northrop Grumman has been developing and flying unmanned systems larger than the small UAVs they are contracted to study.