Home Air US Air Force awards contracts for ground-based radar prototyping effort

US Air Force awards contracts for ground-based radar prototyping effort

AN/TPS-75 radar
3DELRR is expected to replace the AN/TPS-75 as the air force's principal ground-based sensor for long-range surveillance. Photo: US Air National Guard

The US Air Force has awarded three companies contracts for the rapid prototyping of the Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR).

The contracts are part of the service’s new acquisition strategy that is expected to demonstrate expeditionary radar performance this summer.

3DELRR will be the air force’s principal ground-based sensor for long-range surveillance, detection and tracking of aerial targets in support of theater commanders and will replace the AN/TPS-75.

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman will participate under “other transaction agreements”, and CEA Technologies, an Australian firm, will demonstrate their system through a “foreign comparative test” project award.

The program office canceled a delayed development contract late last year, after determining that production-ready systems were available that could deliver the capability faster. The first step in the new strategy is this SpeedDealer demonstration that will allow the air force to assess the military utility of the systems to perform the 3DELRR mission.

“Based on our successful industry day in early February, we released a solicitation March 2 for companies to support our new aggressive strategy,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Judge, materiel leader. “We are excited to see what these three systems can do.”

Program office personnel requested responses to the solicitation by April 1, but extended the deadline to April 15 due to the pandemic. Each award provides $500,000 for the companies to demonstrate their radar system’s capabilities, maintenance concepts and radar performance against operationally-relevant targets and conditions, no later than the end of September.

“Following the demonstration, a system that successfully completes the event may be selected for integration, and potentially production, contracts by the end of this calendar year,” the air force said in a statement.

The service said that by using a contracting mechanism known as an OTA, it had greater flexibility in executing the SpeedDealer demonstration and streamlining the transition to follow-on production. The use of the foreign comparative test program, a congressionally-approved authority, allows the Defense Department to test and acquire technologies from designated foreign sources to satisfy US military needs.

“We are not starting over; this is not a new development contract,” said Col. Michael Harm, 3DELRR’s senior materiel leader. “Through the information presented during our industry day and received in the companies’ response to the solicitation, we were able to confirm that production-ready systems can be demonstrated this year.”

The air force anticipates a production-ready radar could reach initial operational capability by late fiscal year 2024.