WASHINGTON — Following an acknowledgment of another deployment extension for the GPS 3 ground control network, the U.S. Air Force publicly and forcefully called on contractor Raytheon to put the program back on track.

It will take at least another additional nine months to deploy the Global Positioning System Next Generation Operational Control System (GPS OCX), Capt. AnnMarie Annicelli, an Air Force spokeswoman, said July 31.

“The OCX program has been a troubled program from the beginning,” she said in a July 31 email. “We are placing a lot of pressure on the contractor, and expect Raytheon to do the job they are contracted to perform.”

During the legally mandated program recertification in October, the network was given a 24-month extension, Annicelli noted in an email. “Additional schedule risk existed” at that time, though, she said.

The Air Force now has decided more time is needed.

“Since that time, further analysis of this risk resulted in a more realistic schedule baseline extension of 33 months,” she said. “The increased schedule was due in part to realized program technical risks, and includes hardware and software obsolescence refreshes.”

The additional nine-month acquisition program baseline recertification extension, she said, is meant “to reduce the risk of continued schedule delays by the contractor.”

Raytheon disputes the extension represents any kind of new schedule slip. Instead, the company maintains, it is simply additional margin built into the schedule.

“In March 2017, the U.S. Air Force updated Raytheon’s 24-month contract to add an additional 6 months of margin, and we remain on track to deliver this essential, advanced capability to that timeline,” spokeswoman Heather Uberuaga said in a July 31 email.

The system was originally due to go operational in October. Now the “ready transition to operations” schedule for Block 1 and Block 2 is April 2022.

With the longer extension, the program’s developmental costs are rising to $6 billion, Annicelli confirmed, about $600 million more than recent estimates. The program is fully funded in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, she said. “But we anticipate the program will require additional funding for FY19-22.”

Mike Fabey is SpaceNews' senior staff writer covering military and national security space matters. Mike previously covered as Defense News’ air and space warfare reporter in 2005 and 2006. Mike was an Aviation Week...