US Special Operations Command selects L3Harris’ Sky Watcher for Armed Overwatch efforts

US Special Operations Command selects L3Harris' Sky Watcher for Armed Overwatch efforts
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WASHINGTON – The US Special Operations Command announced Monday that it has selected the AT-802U Sky Warden, developed by L3Harris Technologies and Air Tractor. Weaponized Overwatch app.

L3Harris said in a statement on Monday that the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract would be worth $3 billion. The initial contract of the program is 170 million dollars.

Air Tractor is an aircraft manufacturer based in Olney, Texas that typically manufactures agricultural aircraft such as firefighting aircraft and crop dusters.

Initial production of the Sky Warden will take place at Air Tractor’s plant in Olney. L3Harris will then convert those aircraft to the Armed Overwatch mission configuration at its Tulsa, Oklahoma modification center beginning in 2023. L3Harris said the work will also be done at its other sites in Greenville, Rockwall and Waco, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee.

Air Force Special Operations Command Weaponized Overwatch app It aims to create a fleet of up to 75 agile, fixed-wing aircraft that require little logistics to maintain their operations.

SOCOM plans the single-engine Sky Warden, AFSOC’s Armed Overwatch aircraft, which can provide close air support, precision strike, and armed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions for counterterrorism operations and irregular warfare.

AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. Jim Slife said last year that he hoped Armed Overwatch aircraft would be suitable for suppressing extremist groups in places like Africa where airspace is uncontested.

The Air Force has shifted its focus — and some of its more complex and expensive fighters and bombers — away from fighting terrorist groups and violent extremist organizations in places like the Middle East to create a series of Armed Overwatch aircraft. .

The L3Harris Sky Warden will be used to pressure terrorist groups in places such as Africa where airspace is largely permitted.  (L3Harris)

The L3Harris Sky Warden will be used to pressure terrorist groups in places such as Africa where airspace is largely permitted. (L3Harris)

“Armed Overwatch addresses the critical need for U.S. Special Operations Command to conduct a wide range of operations globally in support of the National Defense Strategy,” said SOCOM Commanding General Gen. Richard Clarke said in a statement. “This rugged, durable platform will operate in permissive environments and harsh environments around the world to protect our special operations forces on the ground.”

SOCOM said the aircraft would be inexpensive, able to take off and land in harsh terrain, fly for long periods of time and support a variety of modular payloads.

Last year, Slife proposed that Armed Overwatch would allow AFSOC to field its aging and expensive U-28A Draco ISR aircraft — a rare aircraft that requires specialized equipment and training to maintain.

But SOCOM said in a statement to Air Force Times on Monday that even after the Sky Warden is delivered, the U-28 will still be needed to support ISR operations such as search and rescue and humanitarian assistance.

Clarke told lawmakers last year that he envisions four operational squadrons of 15 Armed Overwatch aircraft, one of which is deployed at any time, while the other three train, recover and are kept at home. Clark also said a fifth squadron of 10 to 15 aircraft would be available for training.

L3Harris beat out four other competitors – Leidos, MAG Aerospace, Textron Aviation Defense and Sierra Nevada – for the Armed Overwatch contract. The five firms produced prototype aircraft that were evaluated in late 2021 and early 2022, mostly at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

L3Harris said he will move quickly to convert the prototype aircraft to a production configuration, allowing SOCOM to begin testing later this year.

Six aircraft will be delivered in the first low-cost initial production batch.

Under the contract, L3Harris will also provide training systems, mission planning systems, support equipment, spare parts and logistical support.

Sky Warden is expected to reach initial operational capability in fiscal year 2026 and full operational capability in 2029, SOCOM said.

Rachel Cohen contributed to this report.

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