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USSOCOM picks L3Harris, Air Tractor for its Armed Overwatch program

Sky Warden for USSOCOM Armed Overwatch
Photo: Air Tractor

The US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has selected L3Harris Technologies and Air Tractor to deliver their AT-802U Sky Warden aircraft for the service’s Armed Overwatch program.

Worth up to $3 billion, the contract will see the two companies deliver up to 75 manned, fixed wing aircraft, with an initial program contract award of $170 million.

The Armed Overwatch program is aimed at providing special operations forces (SOF) with close air support (CAS), precision strike, and SOF intelligence, surveillance & reconnaissance (ISR) in austere and permissive environments.

The fleet of multi-mission aircraft will address SOCOM’s need for a deployable, sustainable single-engine fixed-wing, crewed and affordable aircraft system. The aircraft will be used in irregular warfare operations.

The L3Harris-Air Tractor team was selected over four other competitors in the program, including a Leidos-led team with the Bronco II, the MAG Aerospace with the MC-208 Guardian, Sierra Nevada Corp. and PZL Mielec with their MC-145B Wily Coyote and Textron with the AT-6E Wolverine.

L3Harris expects to modify last summer’s Armed Overwatch prototype demonstrator into the production configuration and provide for customer weapon system testing in approximately six months.

Production of new, fully-modified, Armed Overwatch mission-configured aircraft will begin in 2023 at L3Harris’ Tulsa, Okla. modification center, following initial production at Air Tractor’s Olney, Texas aircraft manufacturing facility. Six new aircraft will be delivered under the low-rate initial production Lot 1.

“An important part of our trusted disruptor strategy is listening closely to combatant commanders’ needs, and responding faster than the evolving threats,” said Christopher E. Kubasik, Chair and Chief Executive Officer, L3Harris. “We want to deliver game-changing, modular solutions to US special operators for their hardest missions, and Sky Warden does just that.”

“The Sky Warden design reflects our commitment to America’s national security and the AT-802U will be equipped with everything we’ve learned manufacturing aircraft over the past 46 years,” said Jim Hirsch, President, Air Tractor, Inc. “The L3Harris team is an excellent partner, and our production and engineering staff are ready to immediately deliver this world-class product to our nation’s special forces.”

Built on the Air Tractor AT-802U platform, Sky Warden is designed and built for austere operations. It has a 6-hour loiter capability at a 200 nautical mile combat radius, with a 6,000 lb combat load-out.

L3Harris says the Sky Warden has communications and sensor suites on par with larger aircraft like the King Air and the AC-130. The aircraft is also said to feature the largest payload capacity of any single turbine engine aircraft, allowing it to host L3Harris’ family of communications, sensors and airborne ISR solutions.