The Air Force Has Been Trying to Replace Its Radars Since 2008. Now, It's Starting Over

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An AN/TPS-75 radar rests on the back of a transport vehicle.
An AN/TPS-75 radar rests on the back of a transport vehicle at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, Mich., July 29, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard/Senior Airman Ryan Zeski)

The U.S. Air Force has been trying to replace its radars since 2008. Now, after years of solicitations and lawsuits over contract awards, it has to start all over again.

The service started the solicitation process in 2008. In October 2014, Raytheon was selected to replace the Air Force's older radars -- the AN/TPS-75, or Tipsy 75, its principal ground-based sensors for long-range surveillance, detection and tracking of aerial targets.

Following years of bid protests from competitors Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, with each company saying it had more affordable and capable solutions for the program, the program got off to a late start.

Then, the Air Force amended its solicitation in 2016 to include full-rate production options. In 2017, it awarded Raytheon a $52.6 million contract for the Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR).

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But the process dragged on so long, the service has decided to cancel the contract and hold another industry day to rebid it.

Raytheon Chairman and CEO Tom Kennedy says the move is not surprising.

"The technology baseline was ... back in 2008 when essentially the solicitation effort started with the Air Force," he explained during an earnings call with reporters and analysts Thursday.

During that time, "there were many advancements in technology," Kennedy said. "But we had a baseline [contract] that was kind of rigid."

The service is planning another industry day to rebid the program, similar to what the U.S. Army did for its Lower-Tier Air-and-Missile Defense Sensor program, Kennedy said.

Officials on the call noted the cancellation will not affect the company's earnings.

"The Air Force is changing its acquisition strategy for the Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR) program and will take actions to conclude its current engineering and manufacturing development contract," Air Force spokeswoman Patty Welsh said in a statement to Defense News earlier this month.

"The current contractor experienced numerous technical and supplier challenges in the development of their radar that extended the schedule," Welsh said. "Current market research shows that, due to advancements in technology, other alternatives are now available that can deliver the capability faster."

An industry day is scheduled for Feb. 4 at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, Defense News said. Full replacement of the Tipsy 75 systems was initially expected by 2029, but it's unclear whether the latest cancellation will push back fielding.

According to the service, 3DELRR will enhance airspace situational awareness. The radar will give air controllers "a precise, real-time picture of sufficient quality to conduct control of individual aircraft under many operational conditions," officials said in 2017.

Inside Defense was the first to report the contract cancellation on Jan. 8.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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