Northrop snags Air Force deal

Northrop Grumman Corp. officials can demonstrate how commercial hardware and software technology will support the military's network-centric warfare initiative now that the company has won a $408 million contract to build the Air Force's Battle Management Command and Control (BMC2) system.

They will demonstrate that hardware running Microsoft Corp. Windows, Sun Microsystems Inc. Solaris and Linux operating systems, and Oracle Corp. software can securely receive, process and transmit information to warfighters, said Brian Lima, BMC2 chief engineer at Northrop Grumman.

Commercial technology will speed data processing so that warfighters can more quickly attack the smaller, more mobile targets encountered in the war on terrorism, the officials said. Northrop Grumman's system design beat out those submitted by officials at Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.

Northrop Grumman officials said they already have proven that commercial products can thrive in a combat environment after using products from the former Compaq Computer Corp., now a part of Hewlett-Packard Co., and Mercury Computer Systems Inc. to build the Air Force's Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System.

Ron Sugar, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Northrop Grumman, said in a prepared statement that the company would "deliver to the Air Force a transformational system that will play a pivotal role in the multidimensional battlefield."

During the next 10 months, company officials will finalize their design, deciding which makes and models of the commercial desktop and notebook computers and servers to use for BMC2. In October 2005, they will move into the system design and development phase, Lima said.

BMC2 will automate the processing of data related to enemy targets detected by sensors and radar that can penetrate clouds and trees. The system will be used on E-10A Multi-Sensor Command and Control Aircraft (MC2A) in development at Boeing.

The Air Force's top warfighting information technology official said the system and aircraft empower the military's evolving network-centric and joint warfare doctrines. "With onboard BMC2, the E-10A has the people, processes and technology to receive and process information, evaluate it and then act on it in real time to execute the air battle for the joint commander," said Lt. Gen. William Hobbins, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for warfighting integration.

BMC2's open architecture and equipment interfaces give commanders and warfighters a common operational picture of the battlefield within seconds. The system does this by sharing data with networks connected to manned and unmanned ground, air and space sensors, Hobbins said.

"The onboard [BMC2] suite will play a key role in rapidly correlating onboard sensor data with off-board information so onboard decision-makers can act immediately against critical threats," he said.

BMC2 and the E-10A will make their first test flights in 2008. They could be used in an operational mission as early as 2013.

Earlier this year, Air Force Secretary James Roche called for the creation of three versions of the E-10 wide-body aircraft that would each use BMC2. The E-10A would conduct ground surveillance and cruise missile defense, the E-10B air surveillance, and the E-10C signals intelligence — all with the purpose of identifying enemy targets and weapons and then coordinating jet fighters and bombers so they can attack more quickly than they do today.

"There you have it: An E-10 series, each of which would share a common integration and BMC2 suites: the MC2A," Roche said, speaking earlier this year at the Air Force Association's 2004 Air Warfare Symposium held in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. MC2A represents a major part of the Air Force's larger Command and Control Constellation. The initiative consists of land, air and space sensors that use common computer protocols and communications standards to share information.

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