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Contractor-provided training in the operation and maintenance of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or SUASs, for “domestic and foreign customers” is being ramped up by the U.S. Army, which is about to finalize its review of industry bids for the lucrative initiative.

The potentially $99 million endeavor will support the Army’s SUAS Product Office globally as well in the continental U.S., according to procurement documents that WND located via routine database research.

Developing a cadre of trainers in the operation of drones such as the RQ-20A Puma and the RQ-11B Raven will be the focal point for selected contractors.

The Army says the vendors will help it maintain the nearly 1,800 Puma and Raven systems “currently fielded, and alternative medium and long range systems procured in the future.”

The project primarily will entail flight training (60 percent), with the remainder slated for contractor logistics (35 percent) and technical/program management (5 percent), the documents say.

Late last year the agency awarded an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract valued upwards of $248 million for more Puma and Raven systems.

Their transmission of “live airborne video images, compass headings and location information” enable operators to “navigate, search for targets, recognize terrain, and record all information for analysis.”

Vendors involved in the production of the systems are AeroVironment Inc., Altavian Inc., Elbit Systems of America LLC, Innovative Automation Technologies LLC, and “Lockheed Martian [sic] Corporation,” according to the contract award.

WND recently reported Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has pressed the FBI to explain why it is using drones to spy on American citizens, noting that Director Robert Mueller admitted in a recent appearance before Congress it’s being done with no operational guidelines.

Separately, the U.S. Air Force is soliciting letters of interest from vendors who could help modernize the Global Hawk unmanned aerial system program through 2020.

The program has come under fire in light of various operational problems, including last year’s crash of a Global Hawk aircraft in Maryland. Unlike SUAS, the larger, high-altitude Global Hawk drone weighs several tons.

Northrup-Grumman currently is the prime contractors for the Global Hawk program.

Global Hawk’s expansion, the Air Force acknowledged, is contingent upon the availability of congressionally authorized funds. Consequently, it has issued a source-sought notice, which is a hunt for availability, rather than a Request for Proposals, which seeks a specific contracting plan.

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