The US Federal Aviation Administration has launched a competition to modernise its en route air traffic control (ATC) system almost a year after a court overturned its plan to award a sole-source contract to Lockheed Martin.

The original plan was opposed successfully by Raytheon, which is expected to bid against Lockheed Martin for the en route automation modernisation (ERAM) contract, potentially worth up to $1 billion. ERAM will replace the host computer system software and hardware at 20 en route control centres.

Conceived to increase the capacity and efficiency of the US airspace system, the ERAM upgrade will now also improve security, says Sue Corcoran, vice-president North American programmes at Lockheed Martin Air Traffic Management. The modernisation will increase the accuracy of aircraft tracking and improve the sharing of data between the FAA and US Department of Defense, she says.

Host computer hardware has been upgraded twice, in 1988 and 1999, and must be replaced by 2008, says Corcoran, but the software architecture has not been modernised since the original system was delivered in 1968. The software has become difficult to maintain and new capacity-enhancing controller tools cannot run on current computers, she says.

This time, Lockheed Martin has teamed with Computer Sciences, Boeing, Harris and Northrop Grumman to compete for the ERAM contract. Bidders are required to propose their technical approaches by 15 April and the FAA plans to select two teams for the risk-reduction phase.

Source: Flight International