L3Harris and Air Tractor Win $3 Billion Armed Overwatch Competition

AT-802U Sky Warden. Image

L3Harris Technologies and Air Tractor Inc’s AT-802U Sky Warden has prevailed in the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Armed Overwatch program. The team’s AT-802U Sky Warden system was selected over its rivals to fulfill the requirement for up to 75 aircraft. The team was awarded an initial $170 million out of an indefinite quantity/indefinite delivery contract with a cost ceiling of $3 billion.

The fleet of modern multimission aircraft will address SOCOM’s need for a deployable, sustainable single-engine, fixed-wing, crewed and affordable aircraft system. It will meet close air support; precision strike; armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); strike coordination; and forward air controller requirements for use in austere and permissive environments. The aircraft will be used in irregular warfare operations.

L3Harris expects to rapidly modify last summer’s Armed Overwatch prototype demonstrator into the production configuration and provide for customer weapon system testing in approximately six months. Production of new, fully modified, Armed Overwatch mission-configured aircraft will begin in 2023 at L3Harris’s Tulsa, Oklahoma, modification center, following initial production at Air Tractor’s Olney, Texas, aircraft manufacturing facility.  Six new aircraft will be delivered under Lot 1 low-rate initial production .

The procurement program began in January 2020 when SOCOM officially launched the Armed Overwatch effort. The service sought to acquire 75 manned, fixed-wing aircraft to perform the following missions: close air support, armed reconnaissance, strike coordination and reconnaissance, and airborne forward air control.

In May 2021, SOCOM selected five competitors to build and fly prototypes. The competitors included Leidos, teamed with Paramount Group USA and Vertex Aerospace, with the Bronco II; MAG Aerospace  with the MC-208 Guardian; Textron with the AT-6E Wolverine; Air Tractor/L3Harris with the AT-802U Sky Warden; and Sierra Nevada Corp with the MC-145B Wily Coyote. By November, the list was narrowed to three competitors: Textron, Sierra Nevada Corp, and Air Tractor/L3Harris.

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About Richard Pettibone

A military history enthusiast, Richard began at Forecast International as editor of the World Weapons Weekly newsletter, eventually moving to the company's premier newsletter service, World Aerospace & Defense Intelligence (WADI). Richard is the current editor of the Defense & Aerospace Companies, Volume I (North America) and Volume II (International) services. The two books provide detailed analyses of major aerospace and defense contractors. As a contributor to Aviation Week & Space Technology's 2005 and 2006 Aerospace Source Book, he authored the Prime Contractor & Major Manufacturer profiles. Find out more at www.forecastinternational.com

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