Lockheed Martin spy plane grounded by Army

The Army has instructed Lockheed Martin Corp. to stop development on a multibillion-dollar battlefield spy plane and given the contractor 60 days to develop plans to resolve ongoing production issues.

The Army's Communications and Electronics Command in Fort Monmouth, N.J., runs the $7 billion Aerial Common Sensor (ACS) program, a next-generation airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system for the Army and Navy.

"Although we're issuing a stop-work order, it is important to note that we're not terminating the contract at this time," said Edward Bair, the Army program executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors, in a news release. "Current contract performance is not supporting critical program milestones, and the Lockheed Martin design does not fully support key performance requirements."

The weight of the ACS payload and required airframe modifications exceed the structural limits of Lockheed's selected aircraft, the Embraer 145.

"To meet Army and Navy requirements, an alternate aircraft to the Embraer 145 will be necessary to achieve mission capability," Bair added.

The ACS program is expected to replace the Army's Guardrail Common Sensor and Airborne Reconnaissance Low systems, as well as the Navy's EP-3E, with a system to be developed via an Army-Navy partnership that will result in an intelligence capability enhanced by advanced network communications.

Keith Mordoff, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin, said the company had made significant progress with the development of ACS, "and we remain committed to the delivery of this revolutionary capability to the warfighter. We will be working with our customer to address the current issues and to determine the most achievable and affordable path forward for the program."

Dawn S. Onley is a senior writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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