Thursday, January 26, 2006

EP-8A: About damn time

Back to the future.
Boeing is finally showing off one of its more poorly kept secrets. Its planners are polishing the design for an EP-3E-replacement signals intelligence aircraft for the U.S. Navy…The new design, revealed Jan. 24, comes in response to the death of the Army/Navy Aerial Common Sensor contract offered by Lockheed Martin.

Playing off the basic P-8A Multimission Maritime Aircraft (a 737-800 with a longer 737-900 wing), Boeing officials say they will already have a hot production line (ITAR compliant for classified military work), a proven open electronic architecture and common crew workstations that can be adapted to virtually any surveillance task. MMA is to make its first flight in 2009 and have its first operational unit in 2013. Production could then pick up with the sigint aircraft in time to meet the end of the EP-3's flying life.
There was a batch of JOs at VQ-1 in the lat 90s (full disclosure, I know two of them) who made this proposal (even before the 737 was selected for the P-8A), and it was squashed by some up the chain, one of which ironically worked on Boeing’s MMA “sales team.” Big Navy pissed away years and millions on a known “..Lockheed’s project isn’t going to work..” ACS. In the beginning the default plan was to have two versions of the MMA, a straight-stick and an electronic version. The Program people in the Pax River to D.C. axis killed it though and went the ACS way so they could plug “bla, bla, Joint Program, bla, bla) on their FITREP or something.

Anyway, better late than never….if we go the EP-8A route. Read it all for the details. Read this and this for more of the ACS crimes. And no; no one has been fired.

If you subscribe to the WSJOnline, or have a dead tree copy, on page one there is a great bit on Lockheed's implosion on the ACS program.
Lockheed Fumbles Key Project
The Army's cancellation of a Lockheed spy-plane project has set back the company's push to recast itself for the information age and shows how little margin there is for error as the Pentagon comes under budget pressure.
They could have saved themselves a ton of money and effort, not to mention their reputation, if they had listened to Fleet input. To be blunt, they believed their own BS – and it blew up in their face. ALWAYS listen to the senior LT Instructor Pilots, their BS meters are finely tuned.

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