During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military made extensive use of a new con- cept — intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance provided directly by teams of defense contractor personnel, collectively known as “ISR services,”
using unmanned aerial vehicles over land and at sea.
Despite the drawdown of U.S. forces in both countries
in recent years, the demand for ISR services remains
high, with organic military ISR unmanned aerial vehicles
(UAVs) only beginning to cut into the demand.
Under the ISR services concept, contractors provide
and operate their own runway-independent ISR UAVs in
the combat zone and from ships at sea with teams of
employees. The data feed from the sensors in the UAVs is
downloaded to the military units being served for analysis
and, if needed, action. The concept offers some advantages
over military procurement of UAVs, such as avoiding a
lengthy and expensive procurement process and the formation of force structure to operate the UAVs. The contractor is paid to maintain a certain mission readiness rate.
Insitu, a Bingen, Wash.-based Boeing subsidiary, was
the pioneer of ISR services beginning in 2004 with the
Marine Corps, followed in 2005 with the Navy. Insitu
has provided deployable teams that used the ScanEagle
UAV, which was capable of carrying
an electro-optical [EO] sensor
interchangeable with an infrared
[IR] sensor. The ScanEagle could
remain aloft for long periods, giv-
ing the operator a real-time stare on
areas and targets of interest.
Under the current five-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity ISR
services contract issued on Feb. 29,
2012, by Naval Air Systems Command, with a ceiling price of $874
million, three contractors now are
included: Insitu and Textron Systems
Unmanned Systems for sea-based
requirements, and Insitu, Textron
“Insitu’s ScanEagle and Textron Systems Unmanned
Systems’ Aerosonde are the two systems currently providing ISR services,” Yelle said. “A third company, PAE
ISR [formerly Computer Sciences Corp.’s Unmanned
Systems Business Unit], was qualified under the
 contract and is working toward getting a flight
“ScanEagle and Aerosonde continue to support mar-
itime, littoral and ground ISR capability gaps across the
DoD [Department of Defense], providing Overseas Con-
tingency Operations surge assets with an organic, tactical-
level ISR asset to support full-spectrum operations,” he
said. “ISR services continue to support Operation
Freedom’s Sentinel and other contingency taskings.”
Since 2004, Insitu has flown more than 820,000
operational flight hours and 101,000 sorties with its
ScanEagle teams, said Suzanne McNamara, vice presi-
dent of business development.
A Decade of
Navy, Marine Corps continue to rely on contractors to operate ISR UAVs
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
Fee for Services
Insitu and Textron continue to provide and operate intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) unmanned aerial vehicles
for the Navy and Marine Corps.
; Insitu’s ScanEagle and Textron’s Aerosonde fly surveillance
missions for a fee.
; The Navy is pleased with the 95 percent mission readiness
and “outstanding job” of Insitu and Textron.
; RQ- 21 Blackjack procurement will not eliminate a need for ISR