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Lockheed Martin clinches $1.86bn contract for missile defence

June 25, 2014

WASHINGTON Defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin has been awarded a $1.86 billion fixed-price contract by the US Air Force to complete the production of the fifth and sixth Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites, known as GEO-5 and GEO-6, for the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS).

Lockheed is the prime contractor for the SBIRS programme which is used for providing continuous early warning of ballistic missile launches and other tactical intelligence. The tasks related to the contract will be carried out in Sunnyvale, California, and will run through September 30, 2022, Lockheed Martin said in a statement Wednesday.

The Air Force had awarded initial funding for the two satellites in a 2012 contract to complete non-recurring engineering activities and to procure select long lead parts. In 2013, the service awarded the advance procurement contract to secure additional long lead parts.

"SBIRS provides capabilities critical to our nation's defense but we also understand in today's environment that we need to find that perfect balance between capability and affordability," said Jeffrey Smith, vice president of Lockheed Martin's Overhead Persistent Infrared mission area.

"This contract is the third part of a thoughtful acquisition strategy aimed at further reducing cost and cycle time for GEO-5 and GEO-6, while still providing exceptional data to the warfighter."

SBIRS is a new U.S. strategic missile warning system that replaced the 1970s Defense Support Programme satellites.

The SBIRS architecture includes a resilient mix of satellites in GEO, hosted payloads in Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO), and ground hardware and software.

The GEO-1 and GEO-2 satellites both received Air Force Space Command Operational acceptance in 2013. On schedule for delivery at the end of 2014, GEO-3 is currently undergoing acoustic and thermal vacuum testing at Lockheed Martin'sSunnyvale satellite manufacturing facility. GEO-4 recently entered the final assembly, integration and test.

The SBIRS programme delivers timely, reliable and accurate missile warning and infrared surveillance information to the President of the United States, the Secretary of Defense, combatant commanders, the intelligence community and other key decision makers, according to Lockheed Martin. Northrop Grumman is the payload integrator and the Air Force Space Command operates the SBIRS system.

The system enhances global missile launch detection capability, supports the nation's ballistic missile defense system, expands the country's technical intelligence gathering capacity and bolsters situational awareness for warfighters on the battlefield.

Although the SBIRS programme was beset with cost worries, the Department of Defense (DoD) chose to retain it given its critical role in the country's defense structure, reports

The programme seems to have struck a good balance between affordability and requirement and did not see any significant cut in the FY15 defense budget.

The SBIRS team is led by the Infrared Space Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, which said the contract award saved over $1 billion as a result of a block-buy contracting approach and production and management efficiencies.

"We eliminated unnecessary layers of programme oversight and contract reporting, restructured our test programme and streamlined the production schedules," Colonel Mike Guetlein, production programme manager, said in a statement.

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Source: Big News Network (United Arab Emirates)

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