LE BOURGET - After developing and flying the systems for the U.S. military for years during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Textron is seeing export opportunities for its tactical UAVs take off. Three years ago, the U.S.-based company was looking at five different international opportunities. Now they are tracking 25 across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

With declining U.S. defense budgets and a decreased operational tempo, demand there was beginning to flag.

“Our best opportunities are international,” says Bill Irby, vice president of unmanned systems for Textron. “The expansion for us is good in Europe. In the Middle East, those are huge.” He adds that Japan is also a potential market.

It started off with the ongoing delivery to the Italian military of the Shadow V2, an all-digital system using a tactical common data link and encryption, but ongoing competitions and upcoming contests abound.

One includes a competition in France for tactical UAVs for which Textron is offering the Shadow M2, which adds endurance and payload and a satellite capability for beyond line-of-sight communications. For France, Textron is modifying sensors and the data link to work with its partner Airbus. Source selection for the competition is expected by November.

A competition in the Netherlands should conclude in August. For that, Textron is putting forward its Aerosonde UAV, which uses the EL-005 Lycoming engine.  First, the Netherlands is seeking a land-based system and then will look for sea-based coverage. The Aerosonde, recently qualified for naval use after a series of shipboard launches, can do both.

Competitions are anticipated in Denmark and in Poland, where Textron intends to put forward the Shadow M2 platform.

Textron has demonstrated the Shadow M2 in Yuma, Arizona for Saudi Arabia’s ministry of interior and other countries. Textron has secured State Department approval to market the platform.

Of course winning all of these competitions will be a challenge, as the tactical UAV market is full of competitors including the Thales, Sagem and other companies.