US JCO confirms counter drone technology demonstration ahead of initial selection in FY22

US Joint Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft Office (JCO) has released more details of its strategy to develop a system to counter small unmanned aerial systems, according to an article published by Air Force Times. Further to the demonstration tender which closed in January 2021, JCO Director Col. Greg Soule told reporters on 2 February The Air Force Research Laboratory and the Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, or RCCTO, will run the first of two technology demonstrations at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, in the first week of April.

“We wanted to provide this as a recurring opportunity for industry to be able to show us the latest and greatest that they’re working on so that we can make a decision as a department on what solutions look promising to either evaluate further or roll them into our system-of-systems approach,” Soule said

The technology demonstrated in April will be compared to similar low-collateral effects interceptor solutions that are already under contract with the government, according to Soule. The office is currently combing through industry whitepapers to decide who will receive an invitation to give an oral presentation. From there, the JCO will make a final decision on who will be invited to the first demonstration. Then the JCO will carve out a path to a second demonstration in late FY21.

The office plans select an initial capability for procurement and fielding to the force in FY22.

The JCO will also continue to look at follow-on efforts, future solutions and payloads that could be incrementally rolled into the system as part of a low-collateral effects interceptor package.

The JCO is looking at a low-collateral effects interceptor in response to the call by US Congress to field a C-sUAS system in 2022. Possible quick win technology includes high-energy lasers – already fielded – to provide directed-energy capability. The JCO is also working through the Air Force’s effort on high-powered microwave capability development.

Congress is providing USD47 million to develop, test and begin production ‘as early as’ FY21 to meet immediate operational needs in this area, says Air Force Times.

“We don’t see the counter-UAS problem set as one enduring solution,” JCO’s Maj. Gen. Sean Gainey said during the same press briefing. “We see it as a range of capabilities integrated into a common C2 that gives you the ability to address threats across the range of threats out there and the ability to keep the pace of this threat because if there is a game-changing technology out there. You are going to find yourself consistently adjusting to the threat out there.”

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