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Boeing's Insitu subsidiary has been awarded a $43.7 million contract for the engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) phase of the Small Tactical Unmanned Air System (STUAS) Tier II program. Insitu's Integrator beat competition from Raytheon, General Dynamics/Elbit and AAI.InsituAs my colleagues report here (subscription required) the initial operational capability date is in 2013 but the Navy has an option to acquire up to five contractor-operated systems. Integrator's predecessor, ScanEagle, has logged 340,000 combat hours with the Marine Corps and other customers, under surveillance-by-the-hour contracts in which Insitu owns the vehicles and provides launch, recovery and support services. Integrator itself is due to enter operational service this year, on a similar basis, with an unidentified customer.The win is a strong endorsement of Insitu's proactive product development and commercial-type business model, as well as of Boeing's strategy (which I coincidentally blogged on yesterday). Since the July 2008 takeover, Boeing's policy has been to let Insitu be Insitu - in fact, Boeing's ownership is confined to the smallest type on Insitu's homepage. Another interesting factoid about Insitu is that two of its key hires - chief technology officer Charles Guthrie and vp for emerging programs Bill Clark - came direct from Northrop Grumman's black-projects division. I think that says something about the company's working environment and culture. In the current issue of DTI (page 49), I wrote about Insitu's rapid development of the Integrator and the speed with which new payloads are being added to ScanEagle. A new feature on Integrator is a payload bay with a standard interface, the specifications for which will be available on the Web: the idea is to reduce integration times to hours. There's a clear and very important trend: as payloads get smaller, so do UAVs. However, there will be one important exception. High-end RF systems, whether passive or active, are sized by the laws of physics - so either you need to change the requirement, with more radars or small vehicles, or you will still need large UAVs for some missions.
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