L-3 Communications selected the Gulfstream G550 Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) aircraft to host the US Air Force’s existing Compass Call technology, a move that its rivals Boeing and Bombardier attempted to thwart over the past two years.
The USAF awarded an undefinitised contract action (UCA) to L-3 for the re-host programme, the service announced this week. Contract terms, specifications and price of the UCA are not agreed upon before contract performance begins, a USAF spokeswoman said in an email.
The Compass Call “crossdeck” programme will transition mission equipment from the USAF’s existing fleet of Lockheed Martin EC-130H aircraft, which serves as a communications eavesdropper and jammer for the service, onto new Gulfstream business jets.
Last year, the USAF’s fiscal year 2017 budget request proposed to shift Compass Call’s electronic attack hardware to the G550 airframe. The FY17 budget had then designated the platform as the EC-37B. The USAF currently operates a fleet of G550-based C-37s for VIP transport. The US Navy also has acquired one G550 CAEW aircraft for test range support. Gulfstream also has sold the CAEW platform on the export market, with deliveries to Israel and Singapore.
“After their analysis and sharing that with the programme office, L-3 has decided to use the Gulfstream 550 airborne early warning aircraft as the new platform,” a USAF spokeswoman says in a statement.
Last month, the Government Accountability Office denied Boeing and Bombardier’s protest against the US Air Force’s acquisition strategy for Compass Call, which delegated the platform decision to systems integrator L-3. Boeing and Bombardier’s protests predicted L-3 would hand the platform award to Gulfstream, which is also teaming up with L-3 to compete for the USAF’s Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) recapitalisation.
In its protest, Boeing contended L-3 and Gulfstream’s partnership on the Compass Call cross-deck would give the team a “leg up” in their bid for other procurements, specifically the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) recapitalisation. Boeing also argued that ongoing foreign military sales contracts involving L-3 performing work on two Gulfstream G550 for the Australian Department of Defense tained the Compass Call award.
GAO ruled that even if that argument had merit, Boeing would not be an eligible integrator since the company would be required to consider purchasing its own aircraft.
Bombardier and Boeing also argued the award violated a rule prohibiting lead systems integrator contracts. In the past, USAF officials had characterized L-3 as the “lead systems integrator,” but the lately service has been adamant about correcting that wording, despite documents which use the term “lead.” The GAO determined L-3 did not meet the definition of a prohibited LSI.
While Boeing and Bombardier could protest the USAF’s acquisition strategy, the companies are not able to protest another contractor’s decision.