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This article was Originally Published on Apr 19, 2006 in Volume: 5  Issue: 1

ACS Faces Huge Hurdles

The future of the U.S. Army’s Aerial Common Sensor program could largely depend on the results of an Office of the Secretary of Defense study to determine the correct mix of manned and unmanned ISR systems needed across DoD.

By Rodney L. Pringle

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The future of the Army’s Aerial Common Sensor program could largely depend on the results of a 6-month study due in August 2006 by the Office of the Secretary of Defense to determine the correct mix of manned and unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems needed across DoD. A new acquisition timeline and strategy for ACS will be developed once the study is complete, according to Army officials.

“The study will play a significant role in establishing the future course of the ACS program,” Tim Ryder, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Communication Electronics Command Acquisition Center (CECOM), Fort Monmouth, N.J., told Military Aerospace Technology.

ACS is a manned multi-sensor ISR aircraft designed to detect, classify, locate and track enemy forces and rapidly disseminate the information to warfighters on the battlefield. The Army in January canceled its $879 million ACS development contract with Lockheed Martin rather than switch aircraft platforms to Bombardier’s Global Express business jet. Assistant Secretary of the Army Claude Bolton said at the time that the “prudent course of action” was to terminate the contract and “bring the various players—the industry, the acquisition and user communities, the Navy and Air Force—back to the drawing board to make sure we all have a firm understanding of what the requirements are and the various challenges we need to overcome to make this program succeed.”

Under Lockheed Martin’s original system design and development (SDD) contract for ACS, awarded in August 2004 and set to expire in 2010, the Army would have bought five ACS aircraft and the Navy two aircraft. The total estimated production value of the ACS program was $8 billion. The program began to run into problems soon after the service issued the contract.

The Army issued a stop-work order to Lockheed in September 2005 after learning that the company’s chosen platform for ACS, the Embraer ERJ-145 business jet, was too small to carry the multiple intelligence fathering payloads intended for it. After given 60 days to propose alternatives, Lockheed came back to the Army with the recommendation to switch to the Global Express.

“In the end, neither the Army or the Navy was willing to seriously consider sacrificing capability, and since the aircraft itself was considered a consequential discriminator in the original contract competition, the Army concluded that the prudent course of action was termination,” Ryder said.

A new development contract for ACS could be re-competed and restarted as early as 2009, Ryder said, with initial fielding taking place in the 2016 time frame.

Keith Mordoff, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin’s Integrated Systems & Solutions division, told Military Aerospace Technology that the company won’t make a decision as to whether to compete for the new ACS program contract until after the OSD completes its study and parameters are set for the new effort. “Right now, it’s too premature to say,” Mordoff said. “Right now, we don’t know what the new program will be.”

Lockheed will receive about $200 million for its work on the program since August 2004 and several million more in cancellation fees because the Army terminated the deal “for convenience” and not “cause,” according to Army officials.

ACS is intended to replace the Army’s Guardrail Common Sensor and Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL), as well as the Navy’s EP-3E Aries. The Army’s decision to terminate ACS has left Pentagon officials with two major concerns to address: how to meet the near-term needs of its signal intelligence community while trying to achieve cooperation between the various services on the issue. The results of the OSD study could be a first step in addressing those issues, officials said.



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