The US Air Force has selected a Rockwell Collins/Raytheon Systems team to upgrade more than 500 Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers to meet global air traffic management (GATM) requirements. At the same time, the USAF has slowed down the $4.2 billion avionics modernisation programme (AMP) for 510 Lockheed Martin C-130E/H transport and special operations aircraft.

The initial $39.2 million contract awarded to Rockwell Collins/ Raytheon Systems covers an 18-month KC-135 GATM engineering and manufacturing development phase.

Four to six contract options, including delivery of prototype kits, 540 production kits and 20 simulators, are planned, bringing the total programme value to $600 million. All 544 KC-135s will be GATM-equipped by 2008, allowing the aircraft to operate in the future communications, navigation and surveillance/air traffic management environment. Also competing for the contract was a Boeing/Honeywell team.

Raytheon Systems will perform installation work at its Greenville, Texas, site. The GATM programme includes datalink upgrades and satellite communication and multimode receiver installations. The GATM work is a follow-on to the Rockwell Collins Pacer Crag KC-135 cockpit and avionics modernisation.

The contract does not cover GATM installations on the USAF's RC-135/EC-135 special mission aircraft, which will be handled by Raytheon, with equipment selected from a mix of vendors.

The C-130AMP upgrade competition involves Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and a Marconi/Tracor/Snow Aviation team. Raytheon is believed to have teamed with Honeywell, while the other contenders have yet to pick their partners.

The USAF originally planned a fast-track competitive acquisition for the C-130AMP, with a final request for proposals (RFP) due by 15 October and selection of a prime contractor next March. The USAF has since ordered more risk-reduction work and consideration of a wider spectrum of avionics to reduce the chances of equipment obsolescence.

The draft RFP is not expected to emerge until the end of the year, with the final RFP following three months later.

A source selection decision has also been delayed, perhaps until next September.

Source: Flight International