The Army is rushing to field more counter-drone air defenses. This week the Army announced it had agreed to a $75 million contract with Raytheon for 600 Coyote 2Cs, a loitering counter-drone munition. It’s doing so using its rapid acquisition authority, allowing an expedited process to quickly acquire and field the weapons. 

The Pentagon already has Coyote munitions, but this new deal will expand the Army’s arsenal of them and fast. Under the rapid acquisition authority, the Army is able to secure the contract and start delivery in less than a month after it received authorization to purchase the Coyotes. This allows the Army to much more quickly acquire and field the munitions compared to the normal process, which can take months if not longer. The contract was made in mid-January, with the Army only announcing it this week. 

“The Coyote is a key component of the counter-UAS system of systems,” the Army said in its release about the decision. “It is a ground-launched, radar-guided interceptor, with kinetic and non-kinetic variants, that integrates into fixed site-low, slow, small-unmanned aircraft system integrated defeat systems and mobile-slow, small-unmanned aircraft system integrated defeat systems.”

The weapons system is small enough that it can be deployed at smaller operating bases. According to its manufacturer, the Coyote interceptor is capable of taking out drones of various sizes and maneuverability, such as the one-way attack drones used by various militias in the Middle East.

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The move comes only two months after a major Department of Defense official raised the urgency of acquiring anti-drone technology. In December Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante, citing the heavy use of drones in Ukraine, said that the United States needed to increase its counter-drone capabilities quickly, saying the military needs it “at scale.”

“It is an urgent issue,” LaPlante said at a defense conference that month, calling the situation a “crisis.”

The Army’s contract was made in January, before the drone attack on the Tower 22 base in Jordan killed three American soldiers and wounded 41 other military personnel. The Associated Press reported this week that the Tower 22 base did have Coyote interceptors but did not have larger scale anti-air defenses. But the Army’s decision to pursue rapid acquisition came after several months of rocket and drone attacks on American positions in Iraq and Syria, which have resulted in dozens of injuries. 

The contract will also support additional production of the munition, the Army said in its statement.

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