Get all the coverage from Farnborough air show on our dedicated landing page

Bombardier has provided additional information to the US Air Force following the service’s proposal to sole-source a Gulfstream G550 to fulfill the EC-130H Compass Call’s mission.

In May, the air force suggested Gulfstream’s jet was the only option which did not require additional development or certification work. While US House members praised the proposal as a means to accelerate the recapitalisation programme, Senators have called for an open competition in their version of the fiscal year 2017 National Defence Authorisation act.

The potential sole-source could become a point of contention as House and Senate members attempt to agree a common position.

While Bombardier has stopped short of saying it will protest a sole-source decision, the company is looking to open up a dialogue with the air force on the Compass Call competition, said Stephan Villeneuve, Bombardier’s vice-president of specialised aircraft said on 13 July.

The sole-source suggestion left Bombardier flummoxed, after the company provided a detailed response to the service’s request for proposals, according to Villeneuve.

“We’ve expressed our willingness to discuss with the US Air Force,” he says. “The request for proposals was extremely general; if things have changed in terms of the requirements or the schedule, we’re trying to open the dialogue.”

A potential Compass Call award for Gulfstream could also affect Bombardier’s position on the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) recapitalisation effort. This aims to field 17 jets to replace the air force’s legacy fleet of Northrop Grumman E-8Cs and has pitted Bombardier against Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.

The Compass Call and JSTARS fleets complete similar missions and the air force even recently examined the option of using a common aircraft for both, as well as for a future airborne early warning and control programme.

“There could be differing opinions on whether the two are totally separate,” Villeneuve says. “You would guess we do think that one could have a negative influence on our competitive positioning for the other.”

Meanwhile, Bombardier and Saab’s $1.27 billion contract with the United Arab Emirates to field an airborne early warning and control system on the Bombardier Global 6000 could position the company well for a future US Air Force airborne warning and control system competition.

However, the USAF’s recent Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan called into question the continued use of a large battle management platform in the 2030s. The document states a modified version of the current AWACS would be vulnerable in an anti-access area denial environment and suggests the use of disaggregated sensors on unmanned aerial vehicles.

The modified Global 6000, dubbed the GlobalEye, can find small targets, such as a drug smuggling propeller-powered plane, in air, land and maritime domains. During a presentation at the Farnborough air show, Saab’s head of airborne surveillance systems, Lars Tossman, showed the aircraft’s long-range radar could reach from the east end of Turkey and into Syria. The long range would keep the aircraft out of areas populated with surface to air missiles, he says.