Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) has awarded the first four payload prizes for the Marine Air Ground Task Force Unmanned Aircraft System Expeditionary (MUX) programme.

The US Marine Corps’ MUX programme ultimately aims to develop a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft which would be ship-based and serve as a platform for airborne early warning, electronic warfare, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and data relay. The service is running competitions for funding to develop different components and payloads on the aircraft.

As part of the first set of prize challenges, nine companies won various levels of funding for mission payload design concepts, NAVAIR says on 21 November. The companies won either $700,000 for first place, $200,000 for second place or $100,000 for third place, across four competitions.

Boeing took first place in the MUX data relay payload prize challenge, with Northrop Grumman and Cubic Defense Applications taking the second and third spots, respectively.

Telephonics won the airborne early warning payload top prize, followed by Piasecki Aircraft in second place and both Bell Textron and Sierra Nevada in third.

L3Harris took top spot in the MUX electronic warfare payload category, with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems taking second place and Piasecki taking third.

BAE Systems placed first in the MUX intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payload prize challenge, followed by second-place winner Piasecki and, in third, General Atomics.

NAVAIR has said it intends to run six prize challenges, with the final two focused on payload adapter designs and system architecture designs. Ultimately, the command plans to select the best proposals, which will be integrated onto the MUX aircraft.

The MUX aircraft design will also be chosen through a competition that will start at a later date, says NAVAIR.

NAVAIR has said that companies whose payload ideas are not selected won’t be barred from further competition, but would have to spend internal funds to develop their proposals.

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