SOCOM selects L3Harris AT-802U Sky Warden for Armed Overwatch program

SOCOM selects L3Harris AT-802U Sky Warden for Armed Overwatch program

By Dario Leone
Aug 2 2022
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The Pentagon announced on Aug. 1, 2022 that the L3Harris and Air Tractor team with its AT-802U Sky Warden has won the Armed Overwatch program of the US Special Operations Command.

The Pentagon announced on Aug. 1, 2022 that the L3Harris and Air Tractor team with its AT-802U Sky Warden has won the Armed Overwatch program of the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).

According to an L3Harris press release, the program includes delivery of up to 75 manned, fixed wing aircraft, with an initial program contract award of $170 million.

The fleet of modern multi-mission aircraft will address SOCOM’s need for a deployable, sustainable single-engine fixed-wing, crewed and affordable aircraft system. It will provide close air support, precision strike, armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), strike coordination and forward air controller requirements for use in austere and permissive environments. The aircraft will be used in irregular warfare operations.

“An important part of our Trusted Disruptor strategy is listening closely to combatant commanders’ needs, and responding faster than the evolving threats,” said Christopher E. Kubasik, Chair and Chief Executive Officer, L3Harris. “We want to deliver game-changing, modular solutions to U.S. special operators for their hardest missions, and Sky Warden does just that.”

L3Harris expects to rapidly modify last summer’s Armed Overwatch prototype demonstrator into the production configuration and provide for customer weapon system testing in approximately six months. Production of new, fully-modified, Armed Overwatch mission-configured aircraft will begin in 2023 at L3Harris’ Tulsa, Okla. modification center, following initial production at Air Tractor’s Olney, Texas aircraft manufacturing facility. Six new aircraft will be delivered under the low-rate initial production Lot 1.

“Sky Warden will bring powerful and affordable close air support, precision strike, armed ISR, and command and control capabilities directly to special operations forces in the battlefield,” said Sean Stackley, President, Integrated Mission Systems, L3Harris. “We are ready now to begin work on this modern, multi-mission system for the SOCOM Armed Overwatch program.”

The production-ready Sky Warden system is tailorable for a variety of mission requirements to meet U.S. mission needs.

“The Sky Warden design reflects our commitment to America’s national security and the AT-802U will be equipped with everything we’ve learned manufacturing aircraft over the past 46 years,” said Jim Hirsch, President, Air Tractor, Inc. “The L3Harris team is an excellent partner, and our production and engineering staff are ready to immediately deliver this world-class product to our nation’s special forces.”

Sky Warden is based on the rugged and capable Air Tractor AT-802, which features the largest payload capacity of any single engine turboprop aircraft. It hosts L3Harris’ world-class family of communications, sensors and airborne ISR solutions. The platform is backed by the company’s extensive turnkey ISR operation experience.

The multi-mission platform provides the operator agility and flexibility to identify, track and react to counter threats. It merges the capabilities of larger ISR and armed aircraft into one resilient package. It is also capable of takeoff and landing on unimproved airstrips – allowing the aircraft to be deployed and co-located with special mission operators.

Sky Warden’s name commemorates two best-in-class, multi-mission special operations combat platforms. It merges the deep history of the Vietnam era A-1E Sky Raider with the present-day U-28, which uses the callsign “Warden” during combat operations. Sky Warden combines their heritage and capabilities to collapse the stack, providing one aircraft capable of multiple mission roles.

Photo credit: L3Harris


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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