Boeing and Northrop Grumman are in talks to team for the critical $500 million Battle Management Command, Control and Intelligence (BMC2I) element of the US Air Force's Multi Sensor Command and Control Aircraft (MC2A), in a move that would require even more complex firewalls to ensure open competition between already overlapping teams.

The two had been expected to form their own BMC2I teams to compete against Lockheed Martin/ Raytheon's recently announced partnership that will include L-3 and SAIC. BMC2I is intended to be a network centric, real-time collaborative battle management system that migrates previously ground-based functions on to the sensor aircraft for time-critical targeting. A final request for proposals is expected by May and a decision by December.

Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon in a separate move are awaiting government approval of a teaming agreement covering the other main MC2A elements, including the platform, radar and weapon system integration (WSI). Boeing will supply and complete the 767-400ER, deliver it to Northrop Grumman for structural modification and installation of the active array sensor, being developed by Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems and Raytheon under the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Programme (MP-RTIP).

The MP-RTIP team has recently received a $112 million modification to its $300 million contract to adapt the sensor for MC2A and produce a prototype single string radar. Under the proposed three-way teaming Northrop Grumman will develop the WSI host open architecture for MC2A, with a contract expected to be awarded in July.

With Lockheed Martin/Raytheon competing for BMC2I against a possible Northrop Grumman/Boeing led line-up that could also include BAE Systems and General Dynamics, the different working groups within companies will have to be strictly separated to ensure fair competition. BMC2I will likely involve some risk reduction pre-development work ahead of final downselection, which will require an interface between the WSI and MP-RTIP contractor and the competing battle management teams.

MP-RTIP in its Spiral 1 development will be focused on the ground- moving target indicator role, with the USAF initially wanting to field five platforms from 2012 to supplement the Northrop Grumman E-8C JSTARS air-to-ground surveillance fleet. Spiral 2 airborne moving target indicator and Spiral 3 electronic intelligence gathering will follow.

Source: Flight International