Raytheon: Data link problems are over

Washington DC
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Raytheon believes it has finally overcome the delay of a single technology that may have scuttled funding for one weapons programme and also imperilled the company's pursuit of two other contracts.

US Navy officials have blamed problems and delays with the Rockwell Collins strike common weapon datalink (SCWDL) for terminating the Harpoon Block III anti-ship missile, although Raytheon believes the programme was struggling with broader issues.

The same datalink is also a key component in developing Raytheon's Joint Standoff Weapon C-1 and competing for the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) Increment 2 contract.

The SCWDL has faced technical issues and encryption delays, but "we're passed all that now", says Raytheon Missile Systems vice-president Harry Schulte.

The technical problems were largely driven by the challenge posed by the new datalink's size, Schulte says. The SCWDL is based on Rockwell's multifunctional information distribution system, but its technology must be repackaged from a 253cm3 (1,000in3) terminal to the 18cm3 (79in3) SCWDL box. "This is a pretty small data link to have that kind of functionality," Schulte says.

A new version called the SCWDL-2 was scheduled for flight testing in mid-June. A further improved version - SCWDL-3 - would be developed for live-fire tests after proposals are submitted.

Raytheon is competing against a Boeing/Lockheed Martin team for the SDB Increment 2 contract. Both contractors have been working on a risk reduction programme since 2005, and the US Air Force is expected to release a request for proposals in late July.

Although Boeing owns the SDB Increment 1 contract, Raytheon believes it can offer a competitive proposal for the 113kg-class (250lb) Increment 2 requirement, and is offering what it believes is a superior, uncooled infrared sensor in the weapon's tri-mode seeker. The new weapon will be capable of striking mobile targets in all weather conditions.