BOSTON — The U.S. Navy is expected to choose in August between two industry teams competing to build a new generation of communications terminals for U.S. forces in ships and aircraft, as well as those in some fixed sites, according to industry officials involved with the effort.
Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis submitted the bulk of its proposal to design the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Airborne Maritime Fixed Station (AMF) March 16, and expects to submit additional details by the end of the month, according to Jerry Drelling, a Boeing spokesman.
Keith Mordoff, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Services of Gaithersburg, Md., which also is competing for the JTRS-AMF contract, said the company has met all required programmatic milestones, but he declined to comment specifically on whether it had submitted its bid or on any other details on the program.
The winning contractor is expected to begin low-rate initial production of the terminals in 2010, with initial deployment of a limited number of terminals to follow shortly thereafter, according to Rick Baily, Boeing vice president and general manager for command, control and communications.
The contract was previously expected to be awarded in December 2006 or January 2007.
Steven Davis, a spokesman for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which is running the JTRS-AMF procurement, said program officials were not available to discuss the program or explain the delay on the contract award. Davis declined to provide the anticipated value of the contract, saying that that figure is sensitive during the competition phase of the program.
Drelling said Boeing has been working on the JTRS-AMF effort under a 25-month contract worth $81 million that began in 2004 and ran through October 2006.
The JTRS-AMF terminals are intended to deliver vital communications links to troops in aircraft ranging from helicopters to cargo planes, as well as ships and submarines, Baily said in a recent interview. The radios also are expected to transmit data from unmanned aerial vehicles, he said. More than 150 total platforms will use this terminal, according to a Boeing fact sheet.
The JTRS-AMF radios are capable of operating over a variety of frequency bands, making it easier for troops to communicate with those in other vehicles on the battlefield. The terminals also are designed to send and receive data, imagery, video and voice communications with higher levels of bandwidth and security than the radios that they replace, while remaining capable of communicating with those troops using older systems.
The terminals also are supposed to be designed to accommodate future upgrades.
The JTRS-AMF terminals were previously known as JTRS Clusters 3 and 4. The terminals were renamed as part of a restructuring of the JTRS program last March that was intended to give the companies time to resolve in technical issues that were driving up the cost of the program.
Key members of Boeing’s team include Harris Corp.’s radio frequency communications division of Rochester, N.Y., which is the lead subcontractor on the maritime and fixed-site radios, and Rockwell Collins Government Systems of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which is leading work on the aircraft terminals, Baily said.
However, as stipulated by the JTRS procurement, both companies will maintain the capability to produce air-, ground- and sea-based terminals during the production phase of the program, Baily said. Information about the terminals is being shared openly with the team members to enable a level playing field during the production phase, he said.
While a Lockheed Martin news release mentions BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Raytheon as members of its team, Mordoff declined to elaborate on the roles each partner is playing. “We believe we are offering the government some unique aspects to our approach and it would be premature for us to comment during this stage of the competition,” he said.
In a written statement provided by Davis, the JTRS program office said the competition between vendors will bolster the industrial base and lead to lower production costs for the radios.
“The bottom line is that the drive towards increased competition will have a supplementary effect on motivating better vendor performance,” according to the statement.