SNC lands $554-million US army contract for RAPCON-X

Under SNC’s new contract with the American Army, the company will provide aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance jets using its RAPCON-X system

US-based supplier of advanced technology solutions and open architecture integrations in aerospace and national security, the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), has announced a $554-million (roughly €506 million) contract awarded by the American Army.

Under the new multi-year contract, SNC will provide aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (A-ISR) jets with its RAPCON-X family of systems in support of the Army’s Theater Level High-Altitude Expeditionary Next Aerial–Signals Intelligence (ATHENA-S) project.

“We are proud to continue supporting the Army as a prime contractor with forward-thinking solutions that put the warfighter first,” said Tim Owings, Executive Vice President of SNC’s MST business area. “This award is the direct result of SNC’s commitment to putting ‘skin in the game’ and staying one step ahead by anticipating challenges and innovating solutions years in advance.”

SNC Lands $554-Million US Army Contract for RAPCON-X
Credit: Leonel Fernandez, Unsplash

RAPCON-X = Rapidly configurable

RAPCON-X is the latest in SNC’s range of out-of-the-box A-ISR-as-a-service models for contractor-owned-contractor-operated (COCO) capabilities that include aircraft, pilot, flight and maintenance operations, and logistics support.

According to the company, the RAPCON-X is rapidly configurable and can be deployed within just hours. Rapid configurability also means the aircraft can be swiftly adapted to specific recon missions by quickly switching out on-board equipment to match tactical needs. In its baseline configuration, RAPCON-X is able to collect and process signals intelligence, electro-optical reconnaissance, and ground moving-target signatures using a synthetic aperture radar.

The RAPCON-X solution, says SNC, provides a fully shaped aircraft with a functional mission interior that features workstations, a galley, lavatories and crew berthing quarters. Moreover, RAPCON-X was designed using model-based systems engineering (MBSE), which allows for the ability to rapidly engineer modifications.

The aircraft also utilises an open architecture framework for mission systems that SNC claims will significantly reduce the time required to integrate new systems and add additional capabilities to it in the future.

ATHENA-S: High-altitude surveillance

The US Army’s ATHENA-S project is a critical part of an Army education campaign in which soldiers within the aviation and intelligence branches familiarise themselves with high-altitude sensing operations.

The project looks to inform the Army’s aerial surveillance needs until the Army-operated High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System (HADES) programme of record enters service later in the decade.

To ensure readiness to meet the Army’s deadline, SNC took possession of two RAPCON-X Bombardier Global 6500 jets in 2022, the firm says, positioning it to have both aircraft operational by Q3 2024.

The aircraft have been undergoing engineering integration for more than 20 months through what SNC terms “internal investment channels” and the company says it will continue to perform the work relating to the new contract from its aircraft integration facilities in Hagerstown, Maryland.

“Our born-digital design process and engineering techniques place RAPCON-X among the most capable and rapidly configurable A-ISR platforms worldwide,” said Mr Owings. “RAPCON-X is a system-of-systems that arrives ready to complete the mission, whenever and wherever the need is, quickly modifying as the battlespace evolves.”

US Army supplier

The new contract is by no means the 60-year-old company’s first with the US Army. In 2023, SNC announced several other agreements, including a $774 million (roughly €707 million) encryption device contract to build a next-generation encryption device in order to secure the joint force’s future tactical network.

In addition, the firm also won an ATHENA scout jet contract in 2023 with the US Army for an estimated $600 million (roughly €548 million) and was selected to provide surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft as part of a prototyping effort ahead of the US Army’s plans to field a high-altitude ISR fleet.

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