On May 8th, the US Air Force chose the three companies to participate in a rapid prototyping program to demonstrate expeditionary radar performance for the new acquisition strategy for the Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar.
The Lockheed Martin Corp. and the Northrop Grumman Corp. will participate under Other Transaction Agreements, and CEA Technologies, an Australian firm, will demonstrate their system through a Foreign Comparative Test project award.
3DELRR will be the principal Air Force ground-based sensor for long-range surveillance, detection and tracking of aerial targets in support of theater commanders and will replace the AN/TPS-75.
There was already a development-ready contract, which was canceled back in 2019, because it was determined that there are production-ready systems were available that could deliver the capability faster.
The first step in the renewed strategy is the SpeedDealer demonstration, which would assess the military utility of the system to carry out the mission of the program.
“Based on our successful industry day in early February, we released a solicitation March 2 for companies to support our new aggressive strategy,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Judge, materiel leader. “We are excited to see what these three systems can do.”
Initially proposals were to be accepted by April 1st, but that was pushed to April 15th, due to the pandemic.
Each award provides $500,000 for the companies to demonstrate their radar system’s capabilities, maintenance concepts and radar performance against operationally-relevant targets and conditions, no later than the end of September 2020.
Then, if a system completes the tests, it could potentially be selected for integration, and then production could potentially begin by the end of 2020.
“We are not starting over; this is not a new development contract,” said Col. Michael Harm, 3DELRR’s senior materiel leader. “Through the information presented during our industry day and received in the companies’ response to the solicitation, we were able to confirm that production-ready systems can be demonstrated this year.”
The Air Force anticipates a production-ready radar could reach initial operational capability by late fiscal year 2024.
“Our air control squadrons need this important capability, and this strategy will accelerate delivering it to them,” said Harm.
The initial contract for the 3DELRR was awarded to Raytheon back in 2017, after a long battle against Lockheed Martin and Northrop Gunman.
Raytheon was first selected as the provider for 3DELRR in October 2014, but Northrop and Lockheed quickly lodged protests over the decision with the Government Accountability Office.
As a result, Raytheon lodged a suit against the service, one which was ultimately rejected by a U.S. court.
The Air Force then relaunched the competition, with Raytheon once again nabbing the $52.6 million fixed-price-incentive-firm contract for the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the program.
At the time of the contract award, Air Force officials indicated that a replacement to the AN/TPS-75 radar had been highly anticipated.
“We are excited about what the future holds, particularly as it relates to the performance and affordability of 3DELRR,” said Lt. Col. Michael Alexander, then the deputy program manager for 3DELRR, according to a 2017 news release.
However, years later, it turned out that technical difficulties had delayed the project too much and it is unfeasible.
“The Air Force is changing its acquisition strategy for the Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR) program and will take actions to conclude its current engineering and manufacturing development contract,” said Air Force spokeswoman Patty Welsh in a statement.
“The current contractor experienced numerous technical and supplier challenges in the development of their radar that extended the schedule,” she said. “Current market research shows that due to advancements in technology, other alternatives are now available that can deliver the capability faster.”
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