What Might be Behind the $43.9M U.S. Army Stratosphere Threat Acquisition and Response Contract

Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Feb. 5, 2023.  (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tyler Thompson)

On September 28, the U.S. Army awarded NEANY Inc of California, Maryland, a $43.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract (W911NF-23-C-0064) for the Stratosphere Threat Acquisition and Response Platform Design and Control research and development project. The Department of Defense stated that bids for the contract were solicited via the Internet and that one response was received.

While the conjectures in this report are purely speculative, they may provide some additional information of interest to observers of this contract.

Very little information about the Stratosphere Threat Acquisition and Response program has been publicly revealed, and this writer has been unable to locate any program descriptions through typical research channels. However, judging by its name, this program may have been launched in response to the saga that unfolded from January to February earlier this year when a Chinese spy balloon wafted across U.S. airspace, passing above sensitive military facilities.

At the time of the spy balloon’s sighting, the U.S. revealed that in the past, only a very low number of  such platforms had been detected. Detections were said to have been on the upswing, with reports stating that recent improvements to U.S. air surveillance systems had led to the increase. According to reports, the previous balloon flyovers were only noticed a significant period of time after they had happened.

NEANY’s involvement in the Stratosphere Threat Acquisition and Response program could be related to that company’s previous involvement in the Persistent Ground Surveillance System (PGSS) program. The PGSS is an aerostat-based surveillance system capable of loitering for highly extended periods of time.

It would make sense to place a counter stratospheric threat capability on board a high-altitude balloon, potentially static or mobile. Such systems are far more cost efficient than traditional fixed-wing platforms. With NEANY having experience with surveillance aerostats, the company could use that background to develop a balloon-based system tailored to the stratospheric threat environment.

Work under the Stratosphere Threat Acquisition and Response contract has an estimated completion date of September 30, 2026.

At time of the award, $25.5 million in Fiscal Year 2022 and 2023 Defense-Wide Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation funding is being obligated toward the effort. Although funding categorized as Defense-Wide is being obligated, the U.S. Army Contracting Command, located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is serving as the contracting activity for the program.

About C. Zachary Hofer

In his role as a Senior Defense Electronics Analyst at Forecast International, C. Zachary Hofer's studies focus primarily on air, land, and sea radar systems, as well as the airborne electronics segment.

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