The US Navy has selected ATK and Lockheed Martin to compete for the right to produce the next missile and gunfire warning system for thousands of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

The Joint and Allied Threat Awareness System (JATAS) will replace ATK AAR-47 and Northrop Grumman AAR-54 missile warning systems, starting with the US Marine Corps Bell Boeing V-22 tiltrotor fleet.

ATK and Lockheed have received contracts worth $32 million and $33 million, respectively, to design and demonstrate a prototype JATAS by January 2011. The navy plans to award a follow-on contract to develop and produce an operational system.

The USN rejected a competing bid from Northrop, with its decision offering an opportunity for Lockheed's Orlando, Florida-based Missiles and Fire Control unit to break into a lucrative new market. ATK, meanwhile, has teamed with BAE Systems to defend its incumbent position.

JATAS presents a new technological challenge for both engineering teams. As well as updating the missile warning system to detect the most recent man-portable air defence systems, the USN also wants it to alert crews to attacks by gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades. This hostile fire indicator capability is likely to be a major discriminator in the competition.

The JATAS was originally conceived as both a new missile warning system and an infrared countermeasures system. But the USN has decided to use the US Army's common infrared countermeasures design, which will replace BAE's advanced tactical infrared countermeasures systems for helicopters.

Source: Flight International