Raytheon Confident its Radar is the Best Option for JSTARS Recap

By Allyson Versprille

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — No matter which industry team winds up winning the contract to manufacture the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft, Raytheon believes it will come out on top as the exclusive radar supplier, one of its executives said on the sidelines of the Air Force Association conference this week. 

"At the end of the day we're more mature. We're open standards. We're going to be more cost effective — both from whatever development remains to be done as well as production costs — … and that's what makes us so confident that we have the answer the Air Force is looking for," said Jerry Powlen, vice president of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance at Raytheon Co. "We think a lot of the primes think that as well, which is why they approach us."

Raytheon has declined to sign on as the exclusive supplier to any of the three primes competing for the program. Part of the decision was made in a parochial interest, Powlen said. "The more teams you're on, the better chance you're going to win."

Another reason the company decided to remain nonexclusive was that the Air Force encouraged that type of behavior, hoping to use the current phase of the program to evaluate the technologies that the companies have to offer and observe which one has the best radar, the best battle management command-and-control system, the best communications suite and the best platform, Powlen said. "They would like to understand how any one of those four elements could be mixed and matched to create the best solution for the Air Force." 

The current phase will not result in a downselect. A request for proposals will not be released until after this technology development phase, he noted. 

The JSTARS recapitalization program will replace the current inventory of aging E-8C JSTARS, which are modified Boeing 707-300 aircraft. 

In August, the Air Force awarded three pre-engineering and manufacturing development contracts to Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing. Lockheed received an award of about $11.5 million and Northrop and Boeing received about $10 million. The contracts are set to wrap up in July 2016. 

Lockheed has partnered with Raytheon and Canadian company Bombardier for its Global 6,000 business jet. Northrop — the current prime contractor for JSTARS — has teamed with business jet manufacturer Gulfstream for its G550 business class jet and L-3 Aerospace Systems. And Boeing is offering a modified version of its 737-700 commercial aircraft. 

While Lockheed has already chosen Raytheon to provide its radar for its offering in the first phase of the program, Northrop and Boeing have refrained from making a selection. 

At a media event in Savannah, Georgia, in August, Alan Metzger, vice president and integrated product team lead for next-generation surveillance and targeting at Northrop’s military aircraft systems division, said the reason the company hasn't chosen a radar is because it is waiting to see the final requirements from the Air Force.

"There are a number of radars that are out there that are possible options to be considered," he said to reporters. "We have a baseline radar that we could leverage if the Air Force would like that, but since they haven't published their final requirements, we have not made a selection on the particular radar that we will use on this program."

He said the company is deciding between its own radar system and Raytheon's Skynet. Metzger noted that Northrop attempted to engage Raytheon early in the process, but refrained from making a final decision when the company decided to remain nonexclusive. 

"We tried to pick a radar manufacturer and Raytheon decided to remain nonexclusive, and they want to be a commodity supplier," Metzger said. "Raytheon is basically going to play on a variety of different teams." ??

Powlen said he is confident that the other primes will eventually fall in line. 

"We believe it would have to be a fairly significant change to the requirements for them to decide that their own Northrop radar is a better solution than us, and we don't anticipate the Air Force making that big of a change in the requirements," he said. "We believe at the end of the day, we will be successful in convincing Northrop that we have a better solution for JSTARS than their own internal radar."

While Raytheon has a much "deeper" and "broader" partnership with Lockheed — to whom it is supplying not only the Skynet radar system, but its battle management command-and-control system and communications — it also currently has a subcontract with Northrop to aid the company with its preliminary design review package under the current Air Force contact, he said. For this phase, Boeing decided not to enter into a contractual relationship with a radar manufacturer. 

"That's their prerogative," Powlen said. 

The Skynet sensor has a scalable active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar configuration that "provides battlespace awareness while advanced processors allow for near-simultaneous mapping and tracking," according to Raytheon. "Skynet also uses synthetic aperture radar and inverse synthetic aperture radar imagery for target identification and classification."

The sensor is a derivative of the existing Navy advanced airborne sensor (AAS) program. Over the summer the service completed its first flight test of a P-8A Poseidon configured with AAS. 

The alignment of that program with JSTARS couldn't be any better, Powlen said. By the time Raytheon is into production for the AAS radar, the Air Force will be issuing its requirements for JSTARS, he said. 

"We're going to be low cost because this radar was developed under another service so all of the hundreds of millions of dollars that it took to develop this radar is already behind us," he added. "If you then lump in the economies of scale you can get by building two services' radars at the same time, through the same factory, your cost will be lower."

Other benefits of the system are its high technology readiness level, manufacturing readiness level and compliance with the Air Force's desire to have a system with an open architecture, he said. 

Powlen noted that the company's decision to remain nonexclusive could change as the JSTARS competition progresses. 

It was "natural for us to say, 'We're going to remain nonexclusive on the sensor for this phase of the program,'" he said. "It may change. We may do something different next phase. We just don't know."

Topics: Aviation, C4ISR

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