Army buys $189M counter drone system but already has plans to replace it

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    Army buys $189M counter drone system but already has plans to replace it
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    An MAT-V equipped with Leonardo DRS's Mobile Low Slow Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Integrated Defense Systems, which was developed to disable or destroy enemy drones. (Leonardo DRS)

    WASHINGTON - The U.S. Army has invested another $190 million into a counter-small unmanned aircraft system (C-sUAS), but it’s determined that the system will need to be replaced by a U.S. Marine Corps alternative.

    On July 20, the Army announced it was awarding DRS Sustainment Systems $190 million to develop, produce and deploy the Mobile-Low, Slow, Small Unmanned Aircraft System Integrated Defeat System (M-LIDS). While the system will be deployed, it doesn’t have a long-term future with the military.

    Despite the Army investing in the program for years, M-LIDS is a casualty of redundancy. As the Department of Defense has become more concerned by the threat posed by small drones in recent years, the services have each developed their own C-sUAS responses — mobile, stationary and dismounted.

    Recognizing the redundancy in that approach, the defense secretary delegated the Army to lead the effort to narrow the number of C-sUAS solutions for use by the joint forces.

    On June 25, the Army’s Joint C-sUAS announced it had selected eight C-sUAS for future investment and deployment by the joint forces. M-LIDS didn’t make the cut. But then, about a month later, the $190 million M-LIDS contract was announced,

    “Mobile-LIDS (M-LIDS) was not selected and will be replaced by the next generation mobile system,” said Jason Waggoner, an Army spokesman. In the meantime, “M-LIDS will be deployed with Army units to the CENTCOM area of operations.”

    M-LIDS would likely be replaced by the Light-Mobile Air Defense Integrated System (L-MADIS), a C-sUAS developed by the U.S. Marine Corps and the only mobile solution approved by the Joint C-sUAS Office. L-MADIS has already been deployed for testing and was reportedly used to down a drone off the coast of Iran last year.

    The Joint C-sUAS office told reporters in June that the services were conducting an analysis of how many systems would need to be replaced under the new arrangement. However, leaders were not able to provide a timeline for how quickly they expected to replace those systems.

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    The series of announcements in this market came quickly this summer.

    Two days after the M-LIDS award, the Army announced a contract for one of the C-sUAS solutions that was included on the list for future investment: the Expeditionary-Low, Slow, Small Unmanned Aircraft System Integrated Defeat System (now known as FS-LIDS).

    The $426 million contract with SRC Inc. provides for the development, production, deployment and support of FS-LIDS, one of three fixed-site solution approved for the joint forces by the Joint C-sUAS Office.

    “Development of FS-LIDS is complete and systems are being deployed to U.S. forces globally, with a focus in the CENTCOM area of operations,” Waggoner said. “FS-LIDS will remain in use until replaced with newer technologies.”

    C-sUAS spending hasn’t been limited to the Army in recent weeks. On Aug. 10, the U.S. Air Force issued Black River Systems Co. an $89 million contract for an operational C-sUAS open systems architecture.

    CORRECTION: This story has been updated to show that the Joint C-sUAS Office selected three fixed-site C-sUAS solutions.