ESC deployable air traffic control system program back on track
An Electronic Systems Center program to provide a new deployable air traffic control system is moving forward again after budgetary challenges.
The Deployable Radar Approach Control, or D-RAPCON, will provide worldwide expeditionary approach and en route surveillance for joint, coalition and civil aircraft to direct and monitor air missions through sequencing, separation of aircraft, navigation assistance and airspace control services.
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"At the end of August of last year, we were ready to go, but after a $48 million congressional mark was made against the program's fiscal year 2012 engineering, manufacturing and development budget, we had to regroup," said Capt. Charles O'Connor, program manager.
The program office, working in conjunction with the Air Force Flight Standards Agency (AFFSA), looked at where capabilities could be reduced while maintaining the original concept of operations. The AFFSA has listed D-RAPCON their number one priority for years.
"We are looking more to commercial-off-the-shelf, or COTS, type solutions and have reduced the pre-production units from two to one for cost savings," said O'Connor. "We were able to maintain the key performance parameters."
The system will be modular and scalable to be able to be used at forward operating locations, in the event of failed fixed-base systems or in the event of a natural disaster.
"D-RAPCON can also be deployed right after a disaster occurs," said Col. Jimmie Schuman, Aerospace Management Systems senior materiel leader. "As we have seen recently with the earthquake in Haiti and previously with Hurricane Katrina, this humanitarian relief aspect will fill a critical need. "
The system will be composed of two subsytems - air surveillance radar and operations - each of which can be separately deployed. D-RAPCON will improve radar accuracy and reliability and be a significant improvement over the legacy systems that are being used today. Maintenance and sustainment issues have become a problem with the current systems as parts become harder to find and it becomes costlier to maintain the system.
"D-RAPCON will be a huge advancement for the user as it will be infinitely better than the legacy systems, which have been in the inventory for decades," said O'Connor.
A draft request for proposal is currently out on FedBizOpps, with the final set to be released at the end of March. An industry day was held March 7 to highlight the adjustments between the previous system requirements document and the current one.
"We want to ensure everyone is aware of the changes that were made," said O'Connor. "The industry day was very successful and we received a lot of good feedback."
It will be a full and open competition and best value contract. It is anticipated that the EMD contract will be awarded in the first quarter of FY13 with a value of $50.5 million. The overall program value is estimated at $672.5 million. The Air Force plans to buy 19 D-RAPCON systems.
Currently, full operational capability is scheduled for 2020, but, according to O'Connor, if the Air Force can and wants to accelerate, the program is equipped to do so.
"In spite of the current fiscal environment, it's imperative we get D-RAPCON out," he said. "It will be a huge advancement for the user and we're working hard to ensure they can get this improved capability."
by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
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Source : US Air Force