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U.S. Navy awards $46 million contract for drone testing

U.S. Navy awards $46 million contract for drone testing

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The U.S. Navy has awarded ManTech with a three-year, $46 million contract to provide flight test support for manned and unmanned aerial vehicles. It plays into the Navy's vision for the future.

The U.S. Navy has awarded ManTech International Corp. a three-year, $46 million contract to provide flight test support for the Naval Air Systems Command's Manned and Unmanned Air Vehicle Evaluation Division.

NAVAIR's mission is to integrate, test and evaluate aircraft, including propulsion, mechanical and landing systems. ManTech's role will be to provide a number of services, such as program management, flight test engineering, software development, ballistics analysis and simulation.

ManTech has been around since 1968. It specializes in providing technology for national security purposes, whether that's the intelligence community, the Armed Forces or research organizations, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It has about 60 federal agencies on the rolls and about 1,000 contracts distributed among them, ranging from cybersecurity and surveillance to logistics and information technology modernization.

The deal is one of many that demonstrate the U.S. Navy's intense interest in the UAV. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has indicated in public statements that the U.S. military is intensely interested in UAVs -- and the Navy wants to lead the way.

In March, he said the following to the Senate Armed Services Committee:

When I took office in 2009, unmanned systems were already at work within the department. To assist our troops on the ground in Iraq and in Afghanistan we had either purchased or contracted for thousands of unmanned aerial vehicles that flew hundreds of thousands of hours in support of our mission. Despite their demonstrated utility, there was no vision of where unmanned systems belonged in the Navy and Marine Corps future force structure or coherent plan to achieve that vision. Over the past two years, the Services have worked hard to develop a plan and the presence and reach of our unmanned systems have expanded, including the first expeditionary deployment of a Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), and the first successful flight of the unmanned combat air system, (UCAS), which will begin carrier demonstrations later this year. In total, nearly 1,500 unmanned aerial systems deployed into theater.

He added: "In the fleet, unmanned systems need to be integrated into established operational communities." This deal is a step toward that.

Photo: Northrop Grumman's X-47B UCAS. (Northrop Grumman)

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure