Air Force releases RFP for next-generation aircraft


The Air Force earlier this month issued a nearly $500 million request for proposals (RFP) on the battle management command and control component of its next-generation multi-sensor command and control aircraft.

These aircraft, 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 collection of capabilities in command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

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

The RFP was released June 3, and Federal Sources Inc. estimates the value at $422 million.

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

The RFP includes the pre-system development and demonstration and system development and demonstration efforts. The time frame for those activities runs from the second quarter of fiscal 2003 through that same period in fiscal 2009, Cales said.

In a February speech before the Air Force Association, Gen. John Jumper, Air Force Chief of Staff, said the aircraft is all about integration.

"What it means to us is machine-to-machine interfaces, the integration of space, manned, unmanned, surface centers and platforms," Jumper said. "The guiding principle is that the sum of the wisdom of that integration ends up with a cursor over the target. A major feature of this is multi-sensor command and control aircraft. And the important thing to realize about the [aircraft] is that it is more about the integration and the sensors, but mainly the integration. It is much more about that than the platform [and] the integration of those sensors — manned, unmanned and space — without preference to any of them."

Michael Schoultz, Lockheed Martin Corp.'s vice president for the program, said the Air Force originally requested that contractors submit their proposals within 30 days, but an amendment to the RFP is expected that will extend that to 60 days so that industry has enough time to respond to changes that have been made since the draft RFP was released in March.

Schoultz said the two biggest changes are that the Air Force is now requiring vendors to have Capability Maturity Model Integration level 3 certification or higher because the aircraft is so software intensive; and that the number of threshold requirements was reduced, while objective requirements increased, which signifies the Air Force's commitment to the spiral development process for this program.

Lockheed's team, which includes Raytheon Co., Science Applications International Corp. and others, expects that up to three $4 million contracts will be awarded this fall with a final award winner expected to be announced in April 2004, he said.


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