WASHINGTON — AeroVironment, an early provider of Future Tactical Uncrewed Aircraft Systems to the U.S. Army, has been eliminated from the service’s competition for the next increment of the system.
The Army has long been working to select a Future Tactical Uncrewed Aircraft System, meant to replace its Shadow UAS fleet. In 2022, after a roughly four-year competition, the service awarded AeroVironment an $8 million contract to provide its Jump 20 system as an interim FTUAS capability for a single brigade. AeroVironment purchased Jump 20′s developer Arcturus in 2021. An undisclosed number of Jump 20s have been provided through U.S. security assistance to Ukraine.
In a statement, AeroVironment said the decision “does not have a material impact on the company’s near-term outlook.”
“While we are extremely disappointed with the U.S. Army’s decision, we respect it. We are now fully assessing the U.S. Army’s evaluation process to determine our next steps,” said Wahid Nawabi, AeroVironment’s chief executive, said in the statement.
The Army wants its FTUAS to be a vertical take-off and landing aircraft, so it can be runway independent. Additionally, the service wants the system to offer improved maneuverability and the capability to be controlled on the move. Other planned attributes include a reduced transportation and logistics footprint and a quieter system than is offered today to avoid enemy detection.
The service in fall 2021 opened competition for a permanent system and, earlier this year, the Army selected five companies, including AeroVironment, to build prototypes. Now, the Army is awarding contracts to move into the design phase to Griffon Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Nevada and Textron Systems — all of the competitors except AeroVironment.
The Army did not disclose the value of each contract awarded in a May 24 statement.
Since late February, the Army has evaluated the five submissions’ performance, cost, schedule, risk and modular open systems approaches, according to the service’s statement.
The effort going forward will include a series of design reviews. Then, competitors will be chosen to demonstrate capabilities in actual flight and will go through third-party verification of modular open system architectures.
If competitors pass through those gauntlets, each team will provide air vehicles, mission systems packages, payloads and ground controllers among other tools and manuals in order to go through qualification testing and operational assessments, the Army stated earlier in the competition.
The system is scheduled to enter full-rate production in the second quarter of FY26.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.