RFP prepped for next-generation aircraft

Although the Air Force is a few months away from issuing a $500 million request for proposals on a key portion of its next-generation Multi-sensor Command and Control Aircraft (MC2A), companies already are preparing for competition.

The RFP will be for the battle management command, control, communications, computers, intelligence (BMC4I) component.

The MC2A, along with space-based systems and unmanned aerial vehicles, will be part of the Multi-sensor Command and Control Constellation development program — the Air Force's future "constellation" of capabilities in C2 and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).

The program is budgeted at $338 million for fiscal 2003, and the value of the six-year, BMC4I effort is estimated at $500 million, said Air Force spokeswoman Gloria Cales.

"The goal of the BMC4I effort is to improve the quality and timeliness of the warfighter's information to support rapid decision analysis, increase battlespace awareness, and shorten the decision cycle supporting information superiority and precision engagement," Cales said.

The $500 million RFP will include the pre-system development and demonstration and system development and demonstration (SDD) efforts. The time frame for those activities runs from the second quarter of fiscal 2003 through that same period in fiscal 2009, Cales said, adding that the MC2A program's fiscal 2004 budget request is not publicly available.

The Air Force issued a draft technical requirements document and the original request for information to industry in December 2002, with responses due Jan. 6. "However, the government is considering an initial award to multiple contractors for the BMC4I pre-SDD development effort, with a down select to one contractor for the remainder of the pre-SDD and SDD work," Cales said.

That decision caused a second RFI to be issued Jan. 14, and "multiple industry sources responded" by the due date of Jan. 17, she said, but she did not name the companies.

The BMC4I draft RFP should be released at the end of March, with the final RFP expected in May, Cales said. The multiple contract award will occur in August, with a down select decision expected in February 2004 for the remaining BMC4I pre-SDD and SDD efforts, she said.

Earlier this month, Lockheed Martin Corp. announced that it will lead an industry team along with Raytheon Co. and Science Applications International Corp. to compete for the development and integration of the BMC4I subsystem of the MC2A program.

Michael Schoultz, Lockheed Martin Corp.'s MC2 vice president, is leading the team and said an open system architecture is the key to meeting the Air Force's long-term goals.

Security and information assurance tools need to be built into that architecture from the very beginning, Schoultz said, adding that combining the computer infrastructure with the large software and human engineering requirements will be a challenge.

"There's nothing out there like BMC4I today," he said. "It has to be a collaborative battle management system" and include the aircraft, as well as all other parts of the constellation. "Whoever combines with the other nodes the best will win the golden ring."

The Lockheed Martin-led team also includes:

* L3 Communications, which will contribute network-centric collaborative targeting systems engineering.

* Alphatech Inc., which will provide radar exploitation support and time critical targeting systems engineering.

* Concurrent Technologies Corp., for visualization support.

Northrop Grumman Corp. is the lead integrator developing the MC2A, which will be a converted Boeing Co. aircraft. The winning team on the BMC4I contract will work with Northrop to incorporate that subsystem in the aircraft and other components, Schoultz said. He added that he expects Northrop Grumman and Boeing to form teams to compete for the BMC4I contract, although neither firm has yet done so.

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