Friday, October 21, 2005

Look! In the sky! It's an A-12. It's a LRAACA!

No, it's an ACS.

ACS="Aerial Common Sensor" - a beltway-banditism for a replacement for the Navy's EP-3E and the Army's RC-12/RU-21 Guardrail. For those familiar with the A-12 and P-7/LRAACA fiasco, this should all sound familiar.
...last week, the Army ordered work to be halted on the $879 million design contract because of problems finding an adequate aircraft.

The Army gave Lockheed 60 days to submit a new proposal. Edward Bair, program executive officer for electronic warfare, told reporters last week that all options were on the table.

Northrop Grumman spokesman Randy Belote told Dow Jones that the service should terminate Lockheed Martin's (LMT) contract and go back to the drawing board. His comments mark the first time Northrop Grumman has called outright for a fresh look.

"The fundamental problems with the Aerial Common Sensor source selection, contract performance and the latest get-well proposal all demonstrate the need to reopen ACS to competition," Belote said.
Northrop Grumman lost the contract to Lockheed.
"The Army's evaluation concluded that in their system design there was a high risk of exceeding the maximum zero fuel weight of the aircraft, which is a structural limit and would prevent the aircraft from being able to take off," Kearney said.

Analysts said Northrop Grumman's effort to join the program may not bear fruit. Both the Army and the Navy, an official program partner, are enthusiastic about Lockheed Martin's (LMT) electronics sensors, said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute, a Washington-area think tank.

"The one thing that all the participants agree on is that the Lockheed Martin (LMT)electronics system is the best solution. The argument has been over the aircraft that carries it," said Thompson, who provides consulting services to Lockheed Martin (LMT) and other defense industry firms.
Spin. Spin. Spin. The initial selling point was manpower savings and the cost savings from aircraft selection. They went with the plane first, then shoehorned the electronics in. Or failed to.
The program’s current review was set off in June after Lockheed officials told the Army that the plane they selected for the ACS, the ERJ-145 regional jetliner built by Brazil’s Embraer, would be too small for the planned sensor package. Lockheed suggested replacing it with the larger Embraer 190 airplane.

Bair said the Army already had figured that the weight of the electronic components, cables and cooling gear would exceed Lockheed’s initial estimate by 28 percent. But nine months after the contract was awarded in August 2004, Lockheed and Army officials found the increase was well over 40 percent.

The ACS began as a joint program between the Army and the Navy, but the latter service decided last year to wait and watch instead of signing on.

The Navy, which preferred a larger plane than the Army’s initial choice, saw a possibility of adding ACS-like capability to their Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA) program, launched in 2004 with a $3.9 billion contract to Boeing.
I could be wrong, but I believe the Navy is still married to the Army on this one - but the truth may have changed. If so, good news there.
In view of the Navy’s reluctance, some Pentagon officials are said to favor terminating ACS and adding the Army’s requirements to the Air Force’s E-10A Multisensor Command and Control Aircraft, a program to replace surveillance planes such as Northrop’s E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System and Boeing’s E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System.

A team including Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Raytheon is currently working on the E-10A program.

Loren Thompson, analyst at the Lexington Institute, a Washington think tank, said Pentagon officials concerned about the lack of adequate funds for the Air Force’s E-10A were considering combining the Army’s mission with that of the Air Force, and allowing the Navy to put its ACS mission on the Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft.

That option would allow Boeing, which has the Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft contract, and Northrop Grumman, which leads the E-10A effort, to gain at the expense of Lockheed Martin.
That is what the Fleet and the VQ community (well, those few that I know) wanted when all this ACS foolishness started. My vote, ditch the Joint pipe-dream and cling to the EP-8A.
Airbus (ABI.YY) also was asked about its A320 plane, which is similar to the other aircraft under consideration. Lockheed Martin (LMT) spokeswoman Judy Gan said Airbus was contacted early on but couldn't meet schedule requirements.
Ummmm yep. And the French will get money. Don't call us....

I talked to a buddy who is a VQ type about this. He gave me the background on it. Until about a couple of years ago, the plan was to go with the then MMA now P-8A (also might be in trouble for the $$$) program and have a factory built EP-8A. Plenty of room, plenty of gas, can piggyback on the efficiencies of a common airframe - engine - Chain of Command ect.

Well, the folks on the Pax River to DC gravy train decided to go with the Army program so certain people could claim how "Joint" they were. Contrary Fleet input was dismissed, and the program was given the go ahead before serious answers were given on the tradeoff of weight, altitude, floor space, reachback, and others. The "big platform" guys lost out. The "consultants" the Navy hired sold a PPT program, and Pax River to DC folks were hypnotized by the "Ohh, I can report about how we made a Joint solution. Look at the fewer people on the aircraft. Out of the box..." Now, the fleet may suffer.

This is an old sitcom that keeps repeating itself. I still see people promoted, awarded, and then their reliefs try to fix the mess. Where is the accountability? We lost the ES-3, and the VQ birds only have a decade or so left on them at the rate we are flying them. Someone needs to be fired.

Oh, my VQ buddy told me that at one briefing, one of the few JO pilots in the audience was laughing while watching the briefer say one more time, "we haven't looked at impact of that on the flight profile, zero fuel weight, CG, ...."

The Fleet LT test is usually a very important one. Ignore them at your own peril.

No comments: