RTX to produce 9 AN/DAS-4 targeting systems for US Navy MQ-9Cs

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The US Department of Defense [DoD] recently announced that Raytheon [RTX] has received a contract worth just under $48 million. The objective? To build and supply nine AB/DAS-4 multi-spectral targeting systems for the US Navy. The drones to be fitted with these new systems are operated by NAVAIR. MQ-9 unmanned systems will receive the ordered AN/DAS-4 systems.

Photo credit: RTX

So, what’s special about Raytheon’s Multi-Spectral Targeting System [MTS]? Essentially, it fuses electro-optical/infrared [EO/IR], laser designation and laser illumination features together into a one-stop package. 

With almost four million hours of operation logged, the MTS range of sensors, which includes MTS-A, MTS-B, MTS-C, and MTS-D [AN/DAS-4], have proven invaluable on the battleground. They provide critical intelligence data across both visual and infrared spectrums, supporting US military and civilian missions, as well as those of our allies worldwide. 

Utilizing advanced digital architecture, the MTS offers capabilities like long-distance surveillance, target acquisition, tracking, range finding, and laser designation. This applies to the Griffin missile, Paveway laser-guided bomb, and all other tri-service and NATO laser-guided munitions. MTS sensors offer multiple fields of view, electronic zoom, and multimode video tracking. Plus, they come with a built-in capacity for future expansion and improving performance. 

Raytheon has so far delivered an impressive 3,000+ MTS sensors to US and international militaries, integrating 44 different versions on over 20 various rotor-wing, Unmanned Aerial Systems, and fixed-wing platforms. Some well-known names here include the MH-60 Blackhawk, C-130 Hercules, the MQ-9C Reaper, the MQ-1 Predator, and the MQ-1C Gray Eagle.

Production and delivery of the nine systems are expected to commence shortly at Raytheon’s manufacturing site in McKinney, Texas. The Pentagon anticipates that these systems will be transferred to NAVAIR by March 2027. 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The Naval Air Systems Command [NAVAIR] is responsible for the material support of the US Navy’s aircraft and airborne weapon systems. It is one of the Echelon II Navy systems commands [SYSCOM] and was established in 1966 as a successor to the Navy’s Bureau of Naval Weapons. 

NAVAIR’s headquarters are located at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. Its military and civilian personnel are spread across eight locations within the continental United States and one overseas site. 

The primary role of NAVAIR involves offering comprehensive support for naval aviation aircraft, weapons, and systems operated by the Navy’s Sailors and Marines. This extensive support encompasses areas such as research, design, development, system engineering, acquisition, testing and evaluation, training facilities and equipment, repair and modification, and providing engineering and logistics support when in service. 

Photo credit: Defense News

The DoD indicates that the nine sensors are earmarked for NAVAIR’s PMA-266 program office. This suggests that the new systems will either be installed on the MQ-9 Unmanned Aircraft System [UAS] or the MQ-8 — both of which fall under the remit of the PMA-266 for the US Navy. 

The US DoD specified that the funding for the nine ordered systems would remain valid beyond the current fiscal year. This contract was noncompetitive procurement, by 10 U.S. Code 3204[a][1]. This sole source action follows Federal Acquisition Regulation 6.302-1. As the original equipment manufacturer, Raytheon is the only company that can provide these systems, and no other supplies or services can satisfy the agency’s requirements. 

The MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-8 Fire Scout are two distinct types of unmanned aerial vehicles [UAVs] that the US military uses. Each boasts unique capabilities and uses. The MQ-9 Reaper, manufactured by General Atomics, represents an advancement from the MQ-1 Predator, being larger and more powerful. Equipped with the ability to carry and release precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles, it is primarily used for offensive operations. 

Besides possessing advanced surveillance technologies such as infrared sensors, radar, and video cameras, the MQ-9 can fly at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet and can stay airborne for over 27 hours. This makes it ideal for covering vast territories and maintaining its position for extended periods. 

Photo credit: USAF

Conversely, the MQ-8 Fire Scout, a product of Northrop Grumman, is a smaller, rotary-wing drone specifically designed for the Navy. Its primary tasks include reconnaissance, situational awareness, and providing precision targeting support for ground, air, and sea forces. Its capacity to take off and land vertically makes it particularly suitable for maritime environments, such as deployment from naval vessels. 

The MQ-8 is equipped with several sensors, including a laser range finder, infrared camera, and radar, enabling it to collect and transmit high-resolution imagery and data. With the ability to fly up to 20,000 feet, and an operational duration of around 8 hours, the Fire Scout’s size and vertical take-off and landing capability make it an incredibly versatile tool, suitable for a wide range of missions, from piracy countermeasures to disaster relief assistance. 

Both the MQ-9 and the MQ-8 exemplify significant advancements in drone technology, providing the military with enhanced surveillance, precise targeting, and strike mission capabilities. Although they serve diverse roles and operate in different environments, they both play crucial roles in contemporary warfare and defense strategies.

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