The U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has just awarded an $18 million contract to Insitu, a subsidiary of Boeing, as part of the MEUAS III unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program.

Insitu manufactures the ScanEagle UAV for the U.S. military. The ScanEagle is an ISR-capable drone that can operate at high altitudes (its maximum operational ceiling is 19,000ft) and has a very high endurance (over 24 hours). It carries an assortment of sensory and surveillance equipment. The drone has a 10-foot wingspan and can be also launched and retrieved from U.S. Navy (USN) ships — it doesn’t require a runway to land but uses instead a hook-and-line recovery system, similar to the ones Navy jets use to land on aircraft carriers. Furthermore, it can be deployed from small, special operations capable craft, such as the Mark V Special Operations Craft, which is operated by the Special Boat Teams (SBT) — the guys that insert and exfiltrate SEALs from their objectives — of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC).

The MEUAS III is a $1,5 billion contract that aims to provide SOCOM, among others, with a mid-endurance UAV capable of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations. The contract that was awarded to Insitu is a modification of a current contract and that intends to prevent any operational gaps until the latest version of the MEUAS III program becomes fully operational.

This is the latest development for the long-term program. A few months ago, SOCOM had selected UTC Aerospace Systems, a subsidiary of United Technologies, as the leading company for some MEUAS III project-related products. More specifically, UTC was contracted to provide SOCOM with TASE400 long-range spotters (LRS), TASE400 DXR imaging systems, and the Piccolo flight management system.