The prospect of a first sale for Textron’s Nightwarden tactical UAS is one that the company remains confident about, despite the fact that more than 14 months have passed since the platform’s unveiling at the 2017 Paris Air Show.
Designed as a production ready model of the older Shadow M2, development changes are still progressing at the manufacturers Blackstone, Virginia facility, including the recent addition of technology readiness level eight functionality being added to the programme.
Speaking to Shephard, David Phillips, VP, small and medium endurance UAS at Textron Systems, confirmed that ‘domestic interest’ has been shown by the US Special Forces community, but made no mention of the likelihood of a sale being closed on such a basis.
Despite the company’s optimism, it is not operating at a full-rate production level with Nightwarden and should firm commitments not be made by operators, pressure could potentially take its toll on the programme as a whole.
Philips however, sounded a different tone. ‘At this point, we will continue to demonstrate it, we’ll continue to mature it and we’ll continue to obviously market it,’ he said.
In the past, customer discussions had raised hope that a contract award would be signed off before the end of 2018, with an international sale thought to be the best chance of a first deal.
Export prospects are still viewed by Philips as the most likely way of sparking a breakthrough. ‘There’s a lot of international interest and so it was a focus earlier this year at Farnborough [International Airshow],’ he said.
Previously, integration tests with the company’s Fury UAV missile weapons system were known to have taken place, but no confirmation of whether these arrangements have been extended to customer demonstrations, were disclosed by Philips.
‘We have got some really specific provisos, open-source [information] with respect to things that we say about weaponising, so I tend to kind of stay away from that,’ he added.
Based on formative testing, Nightwarden has already demonstrated precision weapons capability, reduced noise and a greater endurance and payload capacity, according to Textron.