WASHINGTON — The Pentagon wants industry to bring cheap, ground-launched capabilities as well as hand-held options to destroy small drones to its next demonstration in an effort to acquire new technology to combat the unmanned threat, according to a request for information posted May 7 to the federal contracting website beta.sam.gov.
The Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office and the Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office are running the September 2021 demonstration. The JCO and RCCTO want whitepapers to help them choose participants who have possible solutions that fit either in the cheap, ground-launched counter-UAS capability or the hand-held systems categories.
“Ground-Based Aerial Denial is defined as solutions that are ground-launched with no inflight terminal guidance, providing denial or defeat of single or multiple sUAS,” the request explained. The solution should not include ground emitted cyber or electronic attack through radio frequency waves capabilities, the RFI added. Systems should cost less than $15,000 per drone engaged, the JCO laid out.
For a hand-held capability, the office wants something that can be held, attached to a weapon or user while conducting dismounted operations, and weighs less than 24 pounds. Systems should cost less than $37,000 per unit.
The JCO may award prototype projects following the demonstration and a review of capabilities, the request noted. The office plans to complete demonstration evaluations within 30 days following the event and will notify companies if they are chosen for a possible prototype award.
If a prototype effort is successful, companies may be selected for follow-on production contracts without further competition, the RFI stated.
An industry day is planned for May 12, with submissions due May 28.
The September demonstration will be the second effort in a campaign to bring the best c-sUAS technology into an enduring solution.
The JCO was established in late 2019, and the defense secretary at the time delegated the Army in November 2019 to lead the effort to take a petting zoo of c-sUAS, many of which were rooted in urgent Middle East conflicts, and consolidate capabilities into a select group of interim systems.
Pentagon leaders in late September 2020 approved a set of requirements to help counter small drones, laying a path for how industry can develop technology to plug into a single command-and-control system.
The JCO has already chosen an interim set of capabilities to counter small UAS from a poll of 40-plus systems, but it is rapidly working to stay ahead of the threat curve through the development of its future c-sUAS system architecture.
The demonstrations are expected to take place twice a year, during which the joint force will examine the most impactful solutions that fill current capability gaps and are ready for a transition into fielded systems.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.