WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin will continue to support a system that distributes satellite-based missile warning data and related information to overseas U.S. military forces and allies under a contract initially valued at $21.5 million.

The follow-on contract for the Shared Early Warning System (SEWS) has a potential value of $78 million over a five-year period, according to Steve Barrette, Lockheed Martin’s SEWS program manager. The U.S. Air Force’s Electronic Systems Center awarded the contract March 27, he said.

In order to reach the full potential value of the contract, the United States must expand the network of allies receiving SEWS data, something that would be done via the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, Barrette said. The government is in discussions with officials from other nations aimed at bringing them into the network, he said.

Seven U.S. allies currently receive SEWS information, but Barrette said he could not disclose their identity. He said the current SEWS partners have bilateral agreements with the U.S. government that expire at different times.

Each foreign nation that receives information from SEWS must be sponsored by U.S. combatant commanders, Barrette said.

For the U.S. military, the system provides support for U.S. European, Central and Pacific commands, according to an April 3 Lockheed Martin press release.

Barrette also declined to discuss the satellites that feed missile warning information into the SEWS system. The Air Force currently relies on two satellite systems for missile warning data: the aging Defense Support Program and its replacement, the Space Based Infrared System.

Lockheed Martin Command and Control Solutions of Colorado Springs, Colo., has run the SEWS program for the past 12 years, Barrette said during a telephone interview.

SEWS data reception centers are installed at 37 sites around the world and can be upgraded based on emerging needs, Barrette said. “We have been working with the customer in research and development activities and my favorite synopsis of that is working for smaller, cheaper, faster and better,” he said.

Under the follow-on contract, Lockheed Martin will continue sustainment and training activities for the nations now using the system, Barrette said. No major upgrades to the system are planned at this time, Barrette said.

The satellite data that feed into SEWS are sensitive but unclassified, and are filtered and encrypted before being relayed to foreign nations, Barrette said. The information is used for passive defensive measures by military forces and civilians and for air defense situational awareness. The system includes both software and hardware.

SEWS was developed in 1996 by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office under presidential missile defense policy, Barrette said.

“The SEWS mission has evolved over the many years that Lockheed Martin has supported the system,” Cliff Spier, vice president of command and control solutions for Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions Defense of Gaithersburg, Md., said in a prepared statement April 3. “We’ll continue to ensure that the SEWS program provides agile, affordable and timely missile event data to our [combatant commanders] and our partner nations.”

During an interview last August, Gregory Schulte, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for defense for space policy, raised the possibility of collaborating with allies in missile warning beyond what SEWS does. The U.S. government could create architectures where other countries contribute payloads or other early warning technology, he said.

Schulte said a lot of U.S. allies are worried about emerging missile capabilities in Iran, North Korea and other nations. All of the nations could benefit from a shared early warning architecture, Schulte said.