Lockheed offers air traffic alternative

An air traffic control system that Lockheed Martin Corp. has proposed as an alternative to a Raytheon Co. system offers a similar processor but lacks other changes required by controllers, according to an Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman.

Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management said it submitted an unsolicited, firm fixed-price proposal to the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday. The proposal offers its Common Automated Radar Terminal System (ARTS) as a replacement for the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) that Raytheon has been developing since 1997. Common ARTS has been delivered to 136 of the FAA's Terminal Radar Approach Control (Tracon) facilities.

Common ARTS and STARS are similar, but STARS incorporates the human factors changes requested by the air traffic controllers, said Tammy Jones, FAA spokeswoman.

In the first year of STARS' development, air traffic controllers highlighted nearly 100 problems that would make their displays difficult to view or commands difficult to produce. FAA, Raytheon and controllers collaborated to redesign the system. Tracon controllers manage traffic in airspace within a 50-mile radius of an airport

The back-end processor for both systems provides the same functionality, but the display system on Common ARTS lacks the changes that FAA has poured more than $200 million into making on STARS, Jones said.

"To use Common ARTS, we would have to have human factors changes made to Common ARTS," Jones said, adding that Lockheed is entering fairly late in the development. But she said the FAA will evaluate the company's proposal and its benefits to the government.

Although Lockheed officials were reluctant to discuss details of the proposal until the FAA has a chance to review it, they said Common ARTS could be delivered within 12 months and deployment could be completed in three years.

The human factors issues on STARS put the program several years behind schedule and about $500 million over budget. In the interim, Lockheed Martin has been deploying Common ARTS to Tracons across the country until the final STARS system is deployed.

Lockheed has worked on its STARS replacement proposal for several months, Lockheed spokeswoman Julie Vass said.

Raytheon has not seen the proposal and cannot comment on it specifically, said Blanche Necessary, a Raytheon spokeswoman. However, she said Raytheon has worked closely with the FAA and the controllers' and technicians' unions to make sure the highest technology is available to its users. "Lockheed Martin had a chance to compete on this contract and they lost," she said.

The timing of Lockheed's proposal coincides with a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Aviation Subcommittee today and Raytheon's objection to the FAA's intention to award a sole-source contract to Lockheed for an en route center automation system.

Lockheed also encouraged the FAA to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of Common ARTS vs. STARS.

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