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USDoD announces US$100M pilot funding from APFIT program

The Vertical-BAT Autonomous UAV developed by US firm Martin UAV. Photo: Martin UAV

The Office of the US Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)) has announced the first set of ten projects to receive US$100 Millions-worth of funding via the pilot program to Accelerate the Procurement and Fielding of Innovative Technologies (APFIT).

The purpose of the APFIT pilot program is to expeditiously transition technologies – with priority given to those developed by small businesses and/or non-traditional defence contractors – from pilot programs, prototype projects, and research projects into production. The benefits of this pilot will be to deliver war-winning capability earlier than scheduled while contributing to the viability of small business and non-traditional defence contractor vendors. APFIT is an additional tool the DoD can use to propel innovative capabilities across the “Valley of Death” and into the hands of the warfighter.

“APFIT holds great promise to transform the way the Department procures next generations solutions. This pilot program is well positioned to be a key asset as we continue to work to bridge the valley of death,” stated Heidi Shyu, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. “The ten companies being funded will fill critical capability gaps. Without APFIT, their innovative technologies could take much longer to reach the hands of our warfighters.”

Funded in the FY22 budget to the tune of US$100 million, APFIT is a competitive, merit-based program for innovative and mature technologies and products that can meet warfighter demands but currently lack the necessary funding to transition the capability into the production delivery phase. Ten DoD program offices will each receive $10 million in APFIT funding. These program offices will in turn use that funding to procure innovative technologies, including:

  • Accelerates procurement of a multi-sensor payload for use in unmanned underwater vehicles. Enables safe passage of U.S. and Allied Naval forces with advanced mine-hunting capabilities.
  • Anti-Jam Radio-links for Maritime Operations Resiliency, U.S. Marine Corps, Pacific Antenna Systems, Titan Systems LLC, and Naval Systems, Inc., California and Maryland.
  • Initial procurement of small antennas for resilient comms that conform to tactical aircraft outer mold lines. Provides high data rate capacity scalable to support multi-mission needs and connects the National Technical Means to the tactical edge.
  • Augmented Reality Tactical Assault Kit, USSOCOM, Eolian, New Jersey.
  • Autonomous Unmanned Aerial System – Vertical-BAT, USAF, Shield AI, California, and Texas.
  • Initial procurement of semi-autonomous, long-loiter, vertical takeoff, and landing-capable UASs with modular payload capability. Can provide resilient data transport and locate and provide weapon quality targeting information as part of the Joint Sensing Grid to JADC2. VBAT VTOL can operate in high-wind conditions.
  • Drop-Glide Munitions, U.S. Army, Orbital Research, Ohio.
  • Initial procurement of low-cost, weaponized Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) featuring drop-glide projectiles. Enables the squad to have standoff, survivable, precision strike capability to defeat enemy armor.
  • Full-rate manufacturing capacity to produce optical communications antenna arrays at scale. This next-generation RF communications alternative provides resilient Position/Navigation/Timing, optical tracking, laser communications, and sensor protection.
  • Initial procurement of 3,800 smartwatches loaded with algorithms that afford 2+ days of earlier detection of infectious disease, enabling early treatment and quarantine of infected individuals.
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