Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have been selected to proceed to the next phase of the US Army's Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) programme to replace RC-7 Airborne Reconnaissance Low and RC-12 Guardail signals intelligence aircraft. A former Raytheon business unit now owned by L-3 Communications has been eliminated from the competition.

Teams led by Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems have each received contracts worth $35 million for the component advanced development phase of the ACS programme. Work under this phase is to be completed by September 2004, after which one contractor will be selected to develop the system.

The ACS is scheduled to become operational in 2009, with 35 aircraft to be fielded by 2017. It is expected to be based on a business-jet platform. The RC-7 is a Northrop Grumman-modified de Havilland Canada Dash 7, while the RC-12 is a Raytheon Beech King Air equipped with a sensor system developed by TRW. For ACS, Lockheed Martin is believed to be proposing the Gulfstream 200 and Northrop Grumman the Gulfstream IV-SP.

Source: Flight International