The U.S. Air Force selected three companies, on May 8, to participate in a rapid prototyping program to demonstrate expeditionary radar performance this summer as the service moves forward with its new acquisition strategy for the Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR) program.
The Lockheed Martin Corp. and the Northrop Grumman Corp. will participate under Other Transaction Agreements (OTAs), 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 Northrop-Grumman’s AN/TPS-75 radar. The 3DELRR radar will enhance battlespace awareness through detection and reporting of highly maneuverable, small radar cross section targets. Moreover, it will provide air controllers with a precise, real-time picture of sufficient quality to conduct control of individual aircraft under many operational conditions.
The program office canceled a delayed development contract wit Raytheon late last year, after determining that production-ready systems were available that could deliver the capability faster. The first step in the new strategy is this SpeedDealer demonstration that will allow the Air Force to assess the military utility of the systems to perform the 3DELRR mission.
“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.”
Program office personnel requested responses to the solicitation by April 1, but extended the deadline to April 15 due to the pandemic. In less than one month’s time, the team evaluated all received proposals and made the selections.
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. Following the demonstration, a system that successfully completes the event may be selected for integration, and potentially production, contracts by the end of this calendar year.
By using a contracting mechanism known as an Other Transaction Authority, the team has greater flexibility in executing the SpeedDealer demonstration and streamlining the transition to follow-on production. The use of the Foreign Comparative Test program, a congressionally-approved authority, allows the Defense Department to test and acquire technologies from designated foreign sources to satisfy U.S. military needs.
“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.