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Viasat Gets Unmanned Aircraft Work

The following are selected defense contracts awarded to San Diego County companies in recent months. They have been announced by the U.S. Department of Defense or the contractor itself. Listings also include companies operating in San Diego County.

Viasat Inc. and AeroVironment Inc. announced on Oct. 15 that they will collaborate on a contract awarded under a U.S. Army initiative called Reconfigurable Communications for Small Unmanned Systems. Financial terms of the deal were not immediately available.

Viasat (Nasdaq: VSAT) is a Carlsbad satellite services company with an aptitude for secure networking. AeroVironment (Nasdaq: AVAV), based in Simi Valley, is a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems.

The project will provide U.S. military customers flying small unmanned aircraft the ability to deploy a robust, on-demand, highly secure communications network that will address the growing electronic warfare capabilities of peer and near-peer adversaries, such as China and Russia.

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Viasat is the prime contractor on the award and will work with AeroVironment to develop and demonstrate advanced, encrypted communications suitable for AeroVironment’s portable, hand-launched Puma AE tactical unmanned aircraft. The Puma AE has a wingspan of about 9 feet, weighs 15 pounds and is able to stay in the air for 2½ hours. It can carry electro-optical and infrared cameras, as well as a high-power laser illuminator.

The two companies will seek to strengthen the communications and transmission security of AeroVironment’s Digital Data Link radios currently used by the Army by converting them into a Type 1 crypto communication system for video and data transmission.

In addition, Viasat and AeroVironment will develop critical interoperability standards for enabling unmanned aircraft to generate a secure, digitally encrypted communications network — for protecting classified data and improving waveform performance in jamming environments — via the embedded Digital Data Link waveform. They will also create a standardized communications architecture that will allow aircraft to access spectrum quickly and easily, especially when operating in contested environments.

“Viasat’s robust military-grade cryptography and electronic countermeasure tactical waveform design will enable quick expansion of secure communications to a variety of small unmanned systems operating at the tactical edge,” said Ken Peterman, president of Viasat’s Government Systems business, in a statement released by the company. “By collaborating with AeroVironment, an established leader in the tactical UAS sector, we can help the U.S. Army set new waveform standards that maximize connectivity and minimize the risk of signal intercept.”

Currently, tens of thousands of AeroVironment tactical unmanned aircraft are deployed around the world and are capable of serving as secure, digital network communication nodes for on-demand, mesh network applications in various operating environments.

Redhorse to Engineer Artificial Intelligence

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center awarded Redhorse Corp. of San Diego a five-year competitive blanket purchase agreement with a $100 million ceiling to provide services to the Department of Defense Joint Artificial Intelligence Center Missions Directorate. Four other companies received similar awards. The services include software development, machine learning, cognitive and systems engineering, operations research and user experience design. Work on the contract will occur in Arlington, Virginia. The ordering period is from Sept. 25, 2020, through Sept. 24, 2025. The Air Force District Washington at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, awarded the contract, announced on Oct. 15.

Warehouse Work Goes to PrimeTech

The U.S. Marine Corps awarded PrimeTech International Inc., a small business from North Kansas City, Missouri, a $19.2 million contract for logistics services. Under the firm-fixed-price bridge contract, PrimeTech will manage, support and operate the Marine Corps Consolidated Storage Program warehouse network. The deal includes a six-month base period and three one-month option periods.

Some 13% of the contract, worth $2.5 million, will be performed at Camp Pendleton. Another 9% of the contract, worth $1.7 million, will be performed at Miramar. The balance will be performed at other Marine Corps warehouse locations in California, Arizona, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina and Japan. Work is expected to be completed by June 2021.

Some $12.6 million of the work will be funded through the Pentagon’s war-fighting budget (Overseas Contingency Operations). The contract was not competitively procured, as the government determined that only one bidder could satisfy the requirements. The Marine Corps Logistics Command of Albany, Georgia awarded the contract, announced on Aug. 7.

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