primes team up to challenge Boeing, Raytheon in missile market US
defence contractors are teaming up to beat Boeing and Raytheon to design the next premier air-launched missile. US
Alliant Techsystems (ATK), Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman will jointly pursue development of a dual-role weapon that can replace both the Raytheon AIM-120 advanced medium range air to air missile (AMRAAM), and the AGM-88 high-speed anti-radiation missile (HARM).
The precise role of the new team members is currently undecided. But ATK's background is propulsion and integration, while Lockheed and Northrop bring sensor, airframe and integration skills to the team.
"The formal structure isn't so formal right now," said R.D. (Ron) Abbott, executive vice president for Lockheed's Missiles and Fire Control division.
The new team will likely eventually compete for an emerging USAF acquisition programme called the dual-role air dominance missile (DRADM).
Last year, both Lockheed and Raytheon lost an early technology development contract preceding the DRADM competition. Instead, the USAF awarded the contract to Boeing, which has leveraged its background in missile defense weapons and air-to-ground weapons.
Although the ATK/Lockheed/Northrop team has no formal leader, the announcement was staged at the Lockheed chalet at the Farnborough Air Show. Abbott was joined on the stage by Jack Cronin, president of ATK Mssion Systems and Jim Pitts, president of Northrop's Eectronic Systems division.
Asked directly about the team's intentions about DRADM, however, all three executives declined to name the programme specifically as a potential target.
Raytheon, meanwhile, declined to comment directly, but gave no hint that it will simply cede its monopoly on the AMRAAM and HARM market to the new competitors.
"Raytheon has been an innovator in this space for decades and will continue to do so for decades to come," the company says.
USN approves $150 million upgrade package for future P-8A fleet
Five years before the US Navy P-8A enters service, the US Navy already has approved a roughly $150 million package of upgrades for the anti-submarine patrol fleet.
Boeing received a contract earlier this month to launch studies supporting the P-8A's spiral 1 upgrade that should enter service in 2015, or two years after the first squadron becomes operational.
Ironically, the spiral 1 upgrade is intended to bring the P-8A mission system up to the same standard of the aging Lockheed P-3C Orion that it will be replacing.
The P-8A needs to "catch up" to the P-3C by 2013 because its systems were frozen in 2004, while the P-3C fleet is continuing to be upgraded, said Neal Rothback, the USN P-8A programme's deputy integrated product team leader. The P-8A and the P-3C share a common maritime surveillance radar.
More upgrades to add capability are also still being considered, but are not yet part of the approved spiral 1 package.
For example, the USN is provisioning the P-8A to carry the Raytheon littoral surveillance radar system (LSRS), Rothback said, although funding to integrate the underbelly-mounted sensor has not been approved.
The LSRS has recently been fielded with a small group of P-3Cs. It allows the Orions to perform a function comparable to the Northrop Grumman E-8C Joint-STARS, adding a weapons-targeting function and a maritime search mode.
In addition, the USN also is considering adding funds to develop a high-altitude operating capability, which would include a new air-launched torpedo, data links and high-altitude dropsondes, Rothback said.
Last week, Lockheed Martin officials said that the USN planned to launch the high-altitude weapons concept within a month.
Rothback confirmed that the USN has started to develop the required technologies, but has not yet approved adding funds to integrate the high-altitude capability for the P-8A.
The Spiral 1 package would be followed by a second batch of upgrades in 2017, or two years later.
"We're looking for every two to three years to add new capability," he said.