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Friday, January 28, 2011

Pentagon Boosting Emarss Buy Despite Protests

The Pentagon expects to increase its purchase of U.S. Army Enhanced Medium-Range Surveillance System (Emarss) aircraft in the forthcoming Fiscal 2012 budget request, according to a defense official.
The original procurement of Emarss platforms was expected to be six aircraft in low-rate initial production. The Pentagon will propose an additional 12, for a total of 18, this official says.
On Jan. 6, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced a series of budget shifts to come, including the termination of the General Dynamics Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and a two-year “probation” for the Lockheed Martin F-35B program — both for the Marine Corps — to address design problems and testing delays. Among the possible “plus-ups,” or budget boosts, listed by Gates was the purchase of more MC-12 aircraft, although it was unclear at that time whether Gates meant the Air Force MC-12W Project Liberty configuration, or the forthcoming Emarss version sought by the Army.
L-3 Communications is now building the final MC-12Ws.
The plus-up will not, however, accelerate the Emarss development that is on hold while federal auditors explore claims of unfairness in the Army’s selection of Boeing to design and build the Emarss aircraft. The congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) is reviewing protests of Boeing’s $323-million development contract award filed by all of the company’s rivals for that program. They are Northrop Grumman, L-3 and a Lockheed Martin/Sierra Nevada Corp. team.
Boeing was ordered to stop work on Dec. 15, 2010, following Northrop Grumman’s protest a day earlier. L-3 filed its claim Dec. 15 and Lockheed Martin followed on Dec. 20. Northrop Grumman filed subsequent papers with the GAO on the matter on Jan. 20.
The findings are expected to come out as soon as March 24.
Raytheon and Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) also bid but were eliminated from competition during an earlier downselect.
Likely at issue is how the Army rated the four competitors and how the service assesses value with respect to price and capabilities of the designs.
Aviation Week reported last month that L-3’s proposal was about $50 million less than Boeing’s, and both were rated equally in terms of technical and past performance (AWIN, Dec. 16, 2010).
Some considered Boeing to be a dark horse in the Emarss competition.
Northrop Grumman has experience building the Army Guardrail, the predecessor to Emarss. L-3 has built similar platforms for the Task Force ODIN anti-improvised-explosive-device project, and L-3 led the Project Liberty work for the Air Force.
The Army planned to deploy the first Emarss to Afghanistan within 18 months of contract award, which would have been around June 2012. It is unclear now when those aircraft will be ready for service.
Emarss grew out of another problematic program: it is a scaled-down version of the defunct Aerial Common Sensor project, won by Lockheed Martin/Embraer, which the Army terminated because of weight problems and cost growth.
Emarss will employ electro-optical/infrared and communication intelligence-collection systems.

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