Motorola takes Air Force contract worth $263.7M

Motorola Space and Systems Technology Group won the $263.7 million Air Force Theater Deployable Communications (TDC) Integrated Communications Access Packages Program contract late last month.

Motorola bested both GTE Corp. and Harris Corp. for the key program which is designed to upgrade communications systems used by Air Force wings operations centers combat communications units and special operations squadrons.

Erl Hoke Motorola's TDC program manager said the program represents a "strategic new business area" for the company. When the competition kicked off GTE which developed the Army/Air Force Tri-Tac battlefield communications system was viewed as "the favorite " according to Hoke. Both Harris and GTE officials declined to comment on the award or indicate whether they planned to protest.

Tri-Tac gear will continue to play a key role on TDC according to Joan Wandrei program manager for the Electronic Systems Center (ESC) Hanscom Air Force Base Mass. which managed the procurement. "We are going to replace only part of Tri-Tac " Wandrei said "including some of the telephone switches and some of the technical control equipment." Hoke agreed: "TDC is an adjunct to Tri-Tac not a replacement. This will make it easier to access Tri-Tac."

Wandrei said TDC will provide deploying units "with everything they need for communications from telephones to local-area networks to multiplexers to switches data rout-ers and line-of-sight radios."TDC gear also will be much easier to deploy Wandrei said. Older equipment was mounted in shelters carried on trucks or Humvees TDC gear "is much smaller " Wandrei said. "Everything fits into rugged transit cases." Hoke estimated that the TDC suite of equipment will require only 25 percent of the airlift required by older systems.

Hoke said its key TDC subcontractors include Raytheon Electronic Systems and Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. Raytheon will be responsible for developing an interface between the new gear and the Tri-Tac equipment while BBN will develop a "friendly network manager - like [Hewlett-Packard Co.'s] OpenView only much better. This will allow the Air Force to manage networks with fewer operators."

Wandrei said ESC ran the TDC acquisition under its fast-track "Lightening Bolt" program through "which we put out functional requirements and ask industry to give us solutions." Hoke said Motorola's solution was commercially based with the exception of the network manager. "We brought our best commercial practices as a communication supplier" to the TDC acquisition Hoke said.

ESC expects the first TDC gear to "come off the line in about 12 months " Wandrei said adding that the service expects to acquire 147 sets of TDC gear.

Industry sources said the loss of TDC is a setback for GTE which for much of the past decade has had a lock on both Air Force and Army battlefield communications systems. GTE recently lost a key $300 million Army battlefield contract to Raytheon while Harris won a similar terminal contract from the Air Force.

Earlier this month GTE won an Army contract to integrate Asynchronous Transfer Mode technology into existing battlefield systems but it faces competition for every portion of the Army's new battlefield communications architecture.

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