Lockheed, Northrop object to Raytheon win

Raytheon has the inside track on what could be a long-term and lucrative Air Force project, and Lockheed and Northrop aren't happy about it.

Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have been in a battle for several years to build a new Air Force radar system that can render images in 3-D.

Each company won early development programs with the Air Force to build the 3-D expeditionary long range radar. The contract goes by the acronym 3DELRR. The radar is ground-based and tracks aircrafts and missiles, distinguishing between friends and foes.

Following an early development phase, the Air Force picked Raytheon for the manufacturing development and initial production phase under a $71.8 million contract.

And, big surprise, both Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have filed protests this week.

So far, Northrop has been silent about its protest, but Lockheed expressed disappointment in the Air Force decision to pick Raytheon. “We believed that we offered the most affordable and capable solution for the program and have strong grounds for this protest,” the company said in a statement.

Raytheon, of course, feels the Air Force made right decision. “The Air Force ran a very tough but very fair competition, and selected the world leader in radar to build 3DELRR,” Raytheon said in its statement. “We’ll support the process and will work closely with our customer to mitigate any resulting delays once resolved.”

The positions of the companies is all well and good, but there are other things that make this battle noteworthy.

It is a tight market, and every contract is a precious opportunity, especially one like this. The 3-D radar will replace the AN/TPS-75 radar system first deployed in 1968 and is 2-D, according to GlobalSecurity.org.

That’s a nice long run, which is why the contract for the 3-D radar might have a relatively small price tag at $71.8 million, but it could easily turn into hundreds of millions of dollars.

This is a program with legs, and in this market, everyone is looking for long-term opportunities.

Northrop’s and Lockheed’s protests were filed a day apart, and decisions from the Government Accountability Office are expected in late January.