Crestview company to build new aircraft in pursuit of military contract
CRESTVIEW — The Vertex Aerospace facility in Crestview will manufacture a new military aircraft in partnership with two other contractors, Paramount Group USA and Leidos, in hopes of landing a contract to eventually produce 75 aircraft at a total cost of nearly $900 million.
Vertex Aerospace is a defense aerospace company headquartered in Madison, Mississippi. Leidos is an information technology and engineering contractor based in Reston, Virginia. Paramount Group USA, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is part of a global aerospace and technology company.
The three contractors are being joined by Leonardo DRS, Beast Code and Concord XXI on the new Bronco II, a small multiple-mission light-attack aircraft.
The Bronco II is being built for U.S. Special Operations Command in response to its Armed Overwatch initiative, which reflects a need for a purpose-built aircraft to replace the fighter jets and other aircraft currently used to provide surveillance and firepower for small ground-based combat teams in remote environments.
The Bronco II is a single-engine, two-seat turboprop aircraft with the propeller mounted at the rear of the cockpit, between two tail booms — much like its namesake, the OV-10 Bronco developed in the 1960s.
"We are proud of this partnership with Leidos and Paramount Group as we share a commitment to deliver affordable state-of-the-art capabilities to combat the challenges posed by modern, multi-domain operations,“ Ed Boyington, CEO and president of Vertex Aerospace, said in a news release announcing the partnership. "... (W)e look forward to producing and supporting the purpose-built Bronco II aircraft and weapons system as a transformational tool for our warfighters."
The Bronco II is equipped with a modular weapons system, meaning that it is capable of carrying a wide range of munitions, including guided and unguided rockets and precision munitions, depending on the needs of a particular mission.
Other design features include a compartment below the cockpit that can be configured to carry electronic intelligence-gathering equipment, and a fuel drum, as well as medical and other supplies for resupply missions or air drops.
The Bronco II is also designed to be disassembled and loaded aboard larger aircraft for transport to areas where it is needed. According to information from the project team, the Bronco II can be reassembled for use in the field in less than 12 hours.
According to media reports, U.S. Special Operations Command, which has worked closely with Hurlburt Filed-based Air Force Special Operations Command on the Armed Overwatch project, plans to purchase 75 Armed Overwatch aircraft.
In the federal defense budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, U.S. Special Operations Command is seeking $101 million for Armed Overwatch, to cover the purchase of five aircraft and support equipment.
Beyond that, according to reports, U.S. Special Operations Command plans to spend $893 million to purchase the 70 additional Armed Overwatch planes it is seeking.