Air Force Awards Follow On Space Fence Development Contracts

by: Matthew Potter
February 9, 2011

Category: Business Line, Companies, Contract Additions, Contract Awards, Department of Defense, development program, Events, Federal Budget Process, Lockheed Martin, missile defense, Raytheon, S&T, Satellites, Services, space, U.S. Air Force | RSS 2.0

The U.S. Air Force as part of its responsibilities is the lead service for dealing with space. This is a natural extension of their mission of providing defense surveillance of the U.S. by looking for enemy bombers and missiles. As part of this mission they operate a network of sensors that are used to track objects in orbit above the Earth. They are conducting a program to build a new “Space Fence” to replace the existing one that went in to service a few decades ago.

Almost two years ago the Air Force awarded three contracts to support concept development of new radars for the network. Due to budgetary restrictions only two of these contracts were fully executed. These contracts helped define requirements and understand technology with a goal of reducing life cycle costs and making sure the program will be delivered on time.

These have been completed and the program is entering the next phase where prototype radars will be developed and technical maturity demonstrated. Both Raytheon (RTN) and Lockheed Martin (LMT) received identical contracts for this next phase.

Once this phase is completed then the program will enter Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) to support a Milestone C production decision. At that time the Air Force will most likely select one design from competing contractors.

The two contracts have identical values of just over $100 million. It is estimated that the total program will cost over $3 billion so the winning contractor or contractors have a great deal of follow on work once this phase is passed.

The U.S. defense budget must not only pay for current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, replace and recapitalize existing weapon systems, develop new ones but also support key functions like this. The balancing of current and future requirements and investments as the budget is reduced or limited will be one of the major issues facing the Congress and the Service leadership.

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