Boeing and Lockheed Martin oust Northrop Grumman from running for software-defined radio network contract

Northrop Grumman has been eliminated from the contest for a contract potentially worth $500 million to more than $1 billion to produce thousands of software-programmable radios for US aircraft and ships.

The US Air Force and Navy have chosen teams led by Boeing and Lockheed Martin to advance into a 15-month proof-of-concept phase, awarding contracts worth $55 million and $51 million, respectively. One bidder will then be selected for the Airborne and Maritime/Fixed Station (AMF) cluster of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS).

This is intended to provide every aircraft and ship with the ability to transmit, receive and relay communications across at least 32 waveforms, including the existing Link 16 datalink and the future wideband networking waveform (WNW). The system enables hundreds of aircraft and ships within a 550km (300nm) radius to form a wideband network sharing voice, data or imagery.

Boeing can claim an advantage by already having been selected by the US Army two years ago to develop the largely ground vehicle-based cluster of JTRS radios. It notes the 15-month AMF JTRS development schedule is "aggressive," and says its team can benefit from the lessons learned from the ground-based programme.

Boeing can also benefit from its link with team member Rockwell Collins, which is working on an airborne-specific networking technology to compete with the WNW - the baseline broadband channel that underpins the ground and airborne network.

Rockwell Collins is prime developer of the tactical targeting networking technology (TTNT) waveform.

The USAF has asked both teams to study how the TTNT waveform could be integrated into the AMF JTRS cluster, assuming it is chosen over the ground-optimised WNW.

Lockheed Martin is basing its strategy on its knowledge of aircraft, ships and systems integration tasks, perhaps wagering that concerns about possible integration complications will trump Boeing's advantage. Its team includes Raytheon, which helped to develop the communications software for the overall JTRS programme.



Source: Flight International