HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Using a try-before-you-buy strategy, a team within the Digital Directorate, headquartered here, completed a series of live-fly demonstrations Sept. 26 to evaluate three commercially available, production-ready and deployable long-range radar systems.
Personnel from the Three-Dimensional Long-Range Radar program office expect to announce details of a follow-on integration and production contract in early 2021. In the running are systems designed by Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Australian company CEA.
“We have more hurdles to cross, but completion of the SpeedDealer demos is a significant step that provided the information we needed to make decisions and drive the program forward,” said Lt. Col. Matt Judge, deputy program manager, 3DELRR. “We have the right people with the right experience and leadership support, so we’re all in to cross the finish line and ensure our Airmen have the radar they need to win the next fight.”
Program officials are currently working to upgrade from the TPS-75 radar, an aging, decades-old system that needs replacement. The previous contractor experienced technical and supplier challenges while developing its radar, which caused delays and magnified the need for a new strategy.
In January 2020, the team at Hanscom unveiled “SpeedDealer,” their new acquisition strategy for rapidly testing this new production-ready radar system.
“Our combatant commanders need the capability to rapidly detect, identify, and neutralize modern air threats, and they need modern radars to do that,” said Col. Michael Harm, senior materiel leader, Theater Battle Control Division at Hanscom. “We saw the need to reinvent how we acquire radar systems because the old acquisition method of taking years to build new systems was much too slow.”
“SpeedDealer” seeks to take advantage of advances in radar technology by utilizing production-ready systems already on the marketplace.
“Our market research showed some of these systems already met our requirements,” said Judge. “So we briefed the Air Force senior acquisition executive, Dr. Will Roper, in November 2019, and he gave us the green light to pursue a rapid prototyping middle tier acquisition approach the following month.”
Since that time, the 3DELRR team has leveraged other transaction and foreign comparative test authorities to rapidly select and test the production-ready deployable radar systems.
Under the terms of the authorities, each company shared the cost of participating in the demonstration.
To reduce COVID-19 infection risks to participants during the demonstrations, attendees to the live-fly range test sites practiced strict safety and social distancing protocols.
Following these demonstrations, the team will conduct technical reviews and make its selection in early 2021. The selected system is expected to be fully deployable by 2024.