FARNBOROUGH, England, July 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army has contracted AAI Unmanned Aircraft Systems to create a fleet of upgraded RQ-7B tactical unmanned aerial systems.
The award from the Army's Program Manager-Unmanned Aircraft Systems is worth a total of $358 million.
A total of 45 RQ-7B Shadows – all but two for the Army -- will receive upgrades and their delivery to the service is expected to start late next year, the company said.
"The RQ-7B Shadow upgrade, dubbed V2 by the Army, includes enhancements to every part of the system, from the aircraft itself to the ground and support systems," said AAI Senior Vice President and General Manager Steven Reid.
"It represents all of the agility and performance needed for current mission requirements, as well as robust capabilities to meet future needs. As a result, the Shadow system will perform even more reliably in core areas including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; target designation; communications relay; and battlefield damage assessment; but it also will excel in new missions such as manned/unmanned teaming."
The upgrades will result in the Shadow, which is used in Afghanistan, having extended mission endurance time – from 6 hours to 9 hours. The wings will also be extended and feature hard points for external stores and payloads and a fuel-injected engine will be fitted.
Other features of the upgrade program include integration of a tactical common data link, a new ground control station and other systems.
"With common hardware, software, controls and user interfaces, the UGCS has been proven interoperable with the Army's Gray Eagle and Hunter assets, as well as the Shadow system," said Reid. "It also complies with unmanned aircraft systems interoperability recommendations, including NATO Standardization Agreement 4586.
"Based on our battle-proven One System command and control architecture, the UGCS is 'universal' in the most fundamental sense."
AAI's announcement of the award was issued at the Farnborough Air Show in England.
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