L3 to Procure Three Used Aircraft to Modernize U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s HALO Systems

L3 Communications Integrated Systems will procure three used aircraft required to modernize the High Altitude Observatory (HALO) systems used by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

The HALO systems are used by the MDA to collect electro-optic and infrared (EO/IR) imagery during tests of the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS).

The contract modification, worth around $73 million, that is funding the procurement was awarded by the Missile Defense Agency located in Huntsville, Alabama. The work will be performed in Tulsa, Oklahoma by L3 Aeromet and the performance period is from July 2018 to approximately June 2021.

L3 will now modernize the Government-owned HALO systems, which will require L3 to replace the aging G-IIB aircraft with more modern aircraft that meet specialized HALO requirements, reportedly two secondhand Gulfstream G550 business jets. The procurement of used aircraft (versus new) will satisfy the Government’s minimum needs and will keep operational costs within budget constraints

This new modification increased the basic contract ceiling to a maximum of around $637 million. Fiscal 2018 research, development, test and evaluation funds will be obligated on various task orders issued for HALO modernization efforts, which will include the added scope for aircraft procurement. For each aircraft procurement, L3 will be required to conduct a competition among used aircraft suppliers.

The existing contract requires L3 to maintain and operate a fleet of specialized Government-owned Gulfstream II-B (G-IIB) aircraft – HALO I, II, and IV – which are sensor-equipped to collect electro-optic and infared image data during MDA test events. Each of these sensor- equipped G-IIB aircraft comprises one complete High Altitude Observatory system.

The HALO aircraft form part of MDA’s AirBorne Sensor (ABS) platforms which include the Widebody Airborne Sensor Platform (WASP), a modified McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 aircraft. The primary mission of the ABS Mission Operations program is to provide airborne electro-optic and infrared sensor capabilities to support MDA and other test activities.

High Altitude Observatory (HALO)

The High ALtitude Observatory (HALO) is an instrumented aircraft used as an airborne optical data collection platform supporting U.S. Missile Defense Agency’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) tests. The system is currently based on Gulfstream IIB twin engine jet aircraft.

The system is used to collect missile test and evaluation data including photo documentation, characterization of target scenes, metric and radiometric characterization of systems, and missile plume phenomenology/signature data.

The HALO-I is an airborne system equipped with an infrared imaging system with high-speed visible and infrared photodocumentation. The large windows on the Gulfstream aircraft (replaced with optical windows) and enclosed, environmentally controlled optical benches make this aircraft an excellent choice for unique and experimental EO/IR systems.

The HALO-II and HALO-IV are airborne systems that operates at altitudes up to 13,716 meters (45,000 feet) that are equipped with visible and infrared photodocumentation and ultra high frequency satellite communication (SATCOM). They performs target acquisition and tracking. The EO/IR sensors are mounted in a pod on top of the fuselage (large dorsal fairing), enabling excellent azimuth field of regard (FOR) and horizon-to-horizon elevation viewing.

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