Five companies -- three U.S. contractors and two foreign firms -- responded to the Army's industry day invitation and the chance to compete in the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor program's "Sense-Off" event, a contest to rival the LTAMDS program of record -- allowing new players the opportunity to nab production of the expected multibillion-dollar Patriot radar replacement.
Three major Pentagon radar suppliers -- Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman -- attended the Nov. 14 event in Huntsville, AL, as did CAE Technologies North America and ELTA North America, U.S. subsidiaries of defense contractors based in Australia and Israel respectively, according to industry participants.
The Army, after meeting with the contractors last month, is expected to invite whichever of the companies it sees fit to participate in an LTAMDs "Sense-Off" in May and June at White Sands Missile Range, NM.
The LTAMDS "Sense-Off" is an initiative that aims to accelerate fielding of the Patriot radar modernization program and deliver a capability that could be fielded as soon as 2022.
The Army Lower Tier Program office is also conducting a parallel LTAMDS program of record. Last year, the Army awarded four companies -- Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Technovative Applications -- concept development contracts to perform risk-reduction work on the sensor. In September, the Army selected only two companies to proceed into the technology maturation and risk-reduction phase of the program -- Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
The LTAMDS program of record was predicated on developing and fielding a Patriot radar replacement in 2027, a target date Congress deemed too slow. In response to concerns by lawmakers, the Army in October -- to the surprise of many in industry -- effectively opened the competition back up to all interested vendors.
On Oct. 29, the service announced an LTAMDS radar "sense-off" at White Sands Missile Range. The creation of this new competitive track came as the Army removed the requirement for 360-degree detection, voicing confidence the service can find alternative ways to stitch together sensors to create a 360-degree effect.
The LTAMDS program of record and the "sense-off" are separate and distinct efforts.
The Army is looking to the TMRR phase to mature technologies for a new radar -- and eyeing the "sense-off" for the nearest path to new radar production. The Army's new strategy is to use the TMRR program to improve select technologies that might not be fielded with the first wave of new radars but could be inserted at a later date when fully mature, according to industry officials.
The two companies with a perceived leg up in the LTAMDS program -- Lockheed Martin and Raytheon -- have markedly different views of the "sense-off" strategy.
Lockheed Martin, one of the two companies selected for the TMRR phase, is questioning the timing of the planned "sense-off" and its ability to deliver a next-generation air-defense radar.
"I would say we are in negotiations with the Army right now, trying to make sure that we understand we have an offering that meets all of their requirements including schedule and affordability," Tish Rourke, head of Lockheed Martin's radar system business development, told reporters Dec. 7 in Moorestown, NJ.
"When I say we are in negotiations, we didn’t agree with the date of the sense off," Rourke said. "That was part of our negotiation with the customer. We thought it was too soon. If you want a radar that is in somebody's warehouse today, great, have at it. But you’re not getting a next-generation radar. So the negotiation is: when is the sense off?"
Raytheon, builder of the current Patriot radar, does not have any such misgivings.
"We fully support the Army's acquisition strategy which includes a sense off and that will lead to a down-select and then production of an initial quantity of LTAMDS radars that will begin fielding in fiscal year 2022," said Bob Kelley, who is leading Raytheon's LTAMDs campaign.
Kelley said Raytheon has invested more than $300 million in the "capability area" relevant to LTAMDS "which gives us the ability to meet these accelerated timelines the Army is looking at."
He declined, citing competition sensitivities, to discuss the radar Raytheon has in mind for LTAMDS. He did, however, offer that it would not be derived from the current Patriot sensor system.
"It is a bottom's up new radar," said Kelley.
Raytheon, he said, can both meet the Army's accelerated time line and deliver select capabilities that exceed Army LTAMDS requirements.
"We have been asked: 'Is there some trade space that you need to make to accelerate?' and we really don't have to trade off capabilities," Kelley said. "We knew the Army was going to go this way with an LTAMDS radar, so we made some smart investments early on and that allowed us to accelerate without compromising capability."
Lisa Gordon, a spokeswoman for IAI North America, the U.S. subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, said representatives of its ELTA North America business unit -- which, in connection with ELTA Systems in Israel produces advanced sensors for air, space and missile defense -- attended the LTAMDS industry day.
"If selected, ELTA North America would deliver a U.S. produced sensor with the latest technological advances and a roadmap for future growth," said Gordon.
At press time, representatives of CAE Technologies in Australia could not be reached.
Last month, Northrop Grumman announced plans to participate in the LTAMDS "sense off."
"We support the Army's acquisition strategy for the Lower Tier Air and Missile Defense Sensor and look forward to proving the capability of our field-ready solution during the upcoming live demonstration," Christine Harbison, vice president of Northrop Grumman's Land & Avionics C4ISR Division said Nov. 14.