At a press conference yesterday with the US Army's top acquisition managers for unmanned aircraft systems, Col. Greg Gonzalez and Tim Owings, my colleague Steve Trimble of Flight International asked about problems that General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. had had with software for the Sky Warrior Unmanned Aerial System. It looks as if the Army believes that the company got the message and has tightened up its processes for writing and debugging software. A source attending the Army Aviation Association of America conference confirmed that the company had been grappling with the daunting task of writing huge amounts of code. Here is Steve's transcript of the discussion:
Steve: This is about your contractor on Sky Warrior -- General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. The BAMS protest came back and there was some documentation in there that quoted an army contracting officer for Sky Warrior with some very specific concerns about the contractor's performance -- specifically obligating performance beyond the capacity of the company.
As we're talking about the acquisition strategy [review] coming up in January -- and obviously the importance of this program -- what is your relationship with General Atomics, and, these concerns that have been talked about, how have they been dealt with?
Gonzalez: The first thing I have to say is General Atomics has a tremendous history of providing very high quality products. The products that they have produced -- even the earlier pre-production models that we've fielded and are using in theater -- have had outstanding success. But there's always room for improvement.
One of the things we have found with that particular contractor is that there are some process things that could be improved in terms of software development and predictive capability of software.
And we are working as a project management office very closely with them and they have been very cooperative in improving those processes. And we're very confident that shortly they will make the changes that need to be made and they'll continue to provide those quality products.
But they'll also be able to - in addition to providing those products -- they'll have a better capability to predict how long it will take to do certain software upgrades and those types of things.
The Buzz:: So on the hardware side, you're confident. Software is --?
Gonzalez: Hardware has never been an issue.
Owings : And in fact they are producing product right now that's -- ... we're very satisfied with. They're producing on schedule. So it's not an issue from a standpoint of not getting the product. At the end of the day the products have been very, very good. It's just the software processes probably need to be matured some. And they've been very cooperative in working through those issues that we outlined for them.