A winner of SOCOM’s Armed Overwatch Program will be announced to in the spring of next year. There are plans in place to acquire 75 of the winning planes to be operated by Air Force Special Operations Command. The plane is set to replace the U-28 Draco aircraft which will need significant wing upgrades to continue.
Fiscal Year 2022’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed through congress without problems and is expected to be finalized with President Biden’s signature soon. The budget includes provisions for $166M of purchasing power for the first six armed overwatch aircraft. The $166M figure is $4M less than requested but $17M more than the Senate initially indicated they were willing to spend.
The NDAA also includes a stipulation that SOCOM must provide an “acquisition road map” to congressional defense committees before any Armed Overwatch Program funding is spent. The director of cost assessment and program evaluation in the Secretary of Defense’s office will also be reviewing the program.
The director will be evaluating how many aircraft are necessary for SOF in light of changes to global force posture, a reference to the greater shift of focus occurring in the American armed forces away from counter-terrorism and toward near peer competition.