New Boeing-Northrop Grumman dispute: Aerial Common Sensor

This is completely unrelated to KC-X and other competitors are involved, but I can’t resist.

Boeing and Northrop Grumman are going at it again over the acquisition strategy for the US Army’s next spy aircraft called the Aerial Common Sensor!

You may recall ACS from the fiasco of the original contract that was awarded to a Lockheed Martin/Embraer team in 2004. It was terminated in January 2006 after the army realized that a 20,000lb sensor system won’t fit in a jet with a max payload of 14,000lb after all.

Now, Boeing and Northrop are vying for the follow-up deal for 38 business jet-sized aircraft packed with sensors and workstations. Lockheed and Raytheon are also considering bids, but it’s not clear how serious they are.

I interviewed Boeing and Northrop executives about the competition at the Association of the US Army convention earlier this week, and discovered these companies are locked in yet another dispute about acquisition strategy.

A very risk-averse army acquisition team for ACS currently wants to downselect to one platform for the system development and demonstration phase. The army also is keeping tight control of the subsystems on the aircraft. The bidders are allowed to make only two technology choices: the aircraft and the ground moving target indicator radar. The army has pre-selected all of the other key subsystems, including the communications intelligence payload, data links and aircraft survivability equipment.

Boeing and Northrop are on opposite sides of this approach.

Northrop favors the army’s acquisition strategy and has told the army that the industry as a whole is ready to compete on those terms.

Boeing wants the army to toss out this strategy. The company is urging the army to consider extending the competition into the early stages of the SDD phase and to allow the bidders the freedom to choose their own subsystems.

The issue is likely to be decided on October 23rd, when the Joint Requirements Oversight Council meets to consider the merits of the army’s acquisition strategy.

Another interesting part about the ACS competition is the platform choice.

Boeing quietly announced at AUSA that it would offer the Gulfstream G550 business jet for ACS.

Northrop was partnered with Gulfstream in the original competition and lost with the G450. Now, Northrop is still considering its options and the leading candidates are the G550 and Bombardier Global Express XRS.

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One Response to New Boeing-Northrop Grumman dispute: Aerial Common Sensor

  1. breaking news 26 July, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve visited this site before but after looking at a few of the posts I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyways, I’m definitely happy I came across it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back frequently!

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