US Particular Operations Command Selects L3Harris’ Sky Warden for Armed Overwatch Effort

WASHINGTON – The US Special Operations Command on Monday announced it has selected the AT-802U Sky Warden, manufactured by L3Harris Technologies and Air Tractor. Armed Overwatch Show.

L3Harris says the contract for indefinite, indefinite deliveries will be worth up to $3 billion. The original program contract award was $170 million.

Air Tractor is an aircraft manufacturer from Olney, Texas that typically manufactures firefighting and agricultural aircraft such as crop sweepers.

Initial production of Sky Warden will take place at Air Tractor’s facility in Olney. L3Harris will then modify those planes into an Armed Overwatch mission configuration at the Tulsa, Oklahoma modification center, beginning in 2023. L3Harris said work will also take place at its other locations in Greenville, Rockwall and Waco, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee.

Air Force Special Operations Command Armed Overwatch Show aims to build a fleet of up to 75 flexible, fixed-wing aircraft suitable for deployment to austere locations, with little logistical tail needed to keep them afloat.

SOCOM is planning a single-engine Sky Warden, as AFSOC’s armed Overwatch aircraft, to be able to support close-in, precision strike, and armed intelligence and surveillance missions. and reconnaissance for counterterrorism operations and irregular warfare.

Last year, AFSOC commander Lt Gen. Jim Slife said he hoped armed Overwatch aircraft would be suitable for putting pressure on extremist groups in places like Africa, where airspace is essentially untouched. test.

The Air Force has shifted to forming a range of armed Overwatch aircraft as the primary focus – and some of the more complex and expensive fighters and bombers to operate – away from combat. terrorist groups and violent extremist organizations in places like the Middle East.

The L3Harris Sky Warden will be used to put pressure on terrorist groups in places like Africa, where airspace is largely allowed.  (L3Harris)

The L3Harris Sky Warden will be used to put pressure on terrorist groups in places like Africa, where airspace is largely allowed. (L3Harris)

“Overwatch is armed to meet a critical need for U.S. Special Operations Command to conduct a wide range of operations globally in support of the National Defense Strategy,” said Commander. SOCOM, General Richard Clarke said in a statement. “This sturdy, durable platform will operate in permissive environments and extreme conditions around the world to protect our special operations forces on the ground.”

SOCOM says the plane will be low-cost, able to take off and land in austere fields, fly for extended periods of time, and support a wide variety of modular payloads.

Last year, Slife suggested Armed Overwatch would allow the AFSOC to take the aging and expensive U-28A Draco ISR – a rare aircraft that requires specialized equipment and training to maintain – out of the field.

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

Clarke told lawmakers last year that he envisions four operational squadrons of 15 armed Overwatch planes, one deployed at any given time while the other three train. , restored and maintained at home. Clarke also said a fifth squadron of 10 to 15 aircraft will take part in the training.

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

L3Harris said it will move the prototype aircraft quickly to a production configuration and allow SOCOM to begin testing later this year.

Six planes will be delivered in the first low-ratio initial production batch.

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

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

Rachel Cohen contributed to this report.

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