US Special Operations Command chooses L3Harris’ Sky Warden for Armed Overwatch effort
U.S. Special Operations Command on Monday announced it has selected the AT-802U Sky Warden, made by L3Harris Technologies and Air Tractor, for its Armed Overwatch program.
The indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract will be worth up to $3 billion, L3Harris said in a release Monday. The initial program contract award is for $170 million.
Air Tractor is an aircraft manufacturer from Olney, Texas, that typically makes firefighting aircraft and agricultural planes such as crop dusters.
Initial production of the Sky Warden will take place at Air Tractor’s facility in Olney. L3Harris will then modify those planes into the Armed Overwatch mission configuration at its Tulsa, Oklahoma modification center, beginning in 2023. L3Harris said work will also take place at its other sites in Greenville, Rockwall and Waco, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee.
Air Force Special Operations Command’s Armed Overwatch program aims to build a fleet of up to 75 flexible, fixed-wing aircraft suitable for deployment to austere locations, with little logistical tail needed to keep them operating.
SOCOM is planning for the single-engine Sky Warden, as AFSOC’s Armed Overwatch plane, to be able to provide close air support, precision strike and armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions for counterterrorism operations and irregular warfare.
AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Jim Slife said last year he hopes Armed Overwatch aircraft will be suited to pressure extremist groups in places like Africa, in which the airspace is essentially uncontested.
The Air Force moved to establish a series of Armed Overwatch planes as it shifted its primary focus — and some of its more complex and expensive-to-operate fighters and bombers — away from combating terrorist groups and violent extremist organizations in places like the Middle East.