Magazine article National Defense

Contractors Pledge Job Bonanza in Pursuit of U.K. Radar Project

Magazine article National Defense

Contractors Pledge Job Bonanza in Pursuit of U.K. Radar Project

Article excerpt

A high-stakes competition for Britain's $1 billion airborne surveillance system contract epitomizes the political nature of defense purchases-despite attempts by industry and government to bring commercial practices into military contracting.

The Airborne Standoff Radar (ASTOR) will be a long-range, all weather surveillance system that uses a dual mode radar carried on a business jet to provide synthetic aperture radar and moving target indicator imagery. The data collected onboard the aircraft can be transmitted to mobile ground stalions that are integrated into a command, control, communications, and intelligence environment.

Leading industry teams competing for the AS`IOR award are three of the U.S. defense industry powerhouses--kheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon Company. Each team, however, is downplaying its U.S. connections and rather is boasting the large number of jobs it would create in the United Kingdom.

Under the Raytheon proposal, five Bombardier Global Express business aircraft would be fitted with an advanced optical sensor, plus a wide-area, swath radar, a moving target indication system, and a target acquisition system.

Officials are quick to note that ASTOR is not an airborne battle management or command and control system, such as the U.S. Air Force joint surveillance target acquisition and reconnaissance system (JSTARS).

Britain's Ministry of Defence is expected to make a contract award for ASTOR in early 1999 and deliveries would begin by 2003. It is worth about $1.2 billion.

During a news conference at an internatior al air show in Farnborough, United Kingdom, last September, Peter McKee, managing director of Raytheon Systems Ltd., says that by winning ASTOR, the company would create 2,000 jobs in the United Kingdom. The Raytheon consortium includes Bombardier Aerospace, GECMarconi, Steyr, Marshall, Motorola, and Ultra Electronics.

"This is very important in the current political environment when so many other firms are cutting back," says McKee, emphasizing that 70 percent of the economic and technical content of the ASTOR program would remain in the United Kingdom.

Raytheon is offering a version of its AR,AS2 radar that is currently in service on the U2 spy aircraft.

:'ledges for job creation notwithstanding, Peter Robbie, the company's director of reconnaissance and surveillance systems, says Raytheon's ASTOR bid is designed to satisfy the Ministry of Defence's "smart procurement" principles.

Northrop Grumman, for its part, is making similar claims about the high content of U.K jobs involved in its ASTOR bid, called Wizard. Partners include British Aerospace and Computing Devices International.

"We committed to put a large portion [of ASTOR work] into the U.K radar house," says Marty Dandridge, Northrop Grumman's vice president and general manager for surveillance and battlefield management systems. Northrop Grumman says it will team with a U.K radar house if it wins the contest.

Wizard predicts 2,600 jobs would be created in the United Kingdom if the Ministry of Defence accepts its proposal to supply an improved version of its JSTARS radar. The platform would be a Gulfstream business jet.

This is a contentious issue, however, because of Raytheon's role in the U.S. government's effort to upgrade JSTARS.

Technology Improvement

The Defense Department requested Raytheon's participation in the JSTARS radar technology improvement program (RTIP), which seeks upgrades in datalinks, communications and command and control capabilities, says Robbie. …

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