On Oct. 6, the US Air Force awarded the Raytheon/Saab team a phase-one, four year, $19M, fixed-price contract to deliver 3 long range ground-to-air surveillance radars by 2018. The other two contractors vying for the award were Lockheed Martin (LM) and Nothrup Grumman (NG).
The contract award was expected in early September, but it was pushed back until Oct. 6. That could have been to ensure everything was handled properly to head off a potential protest from either Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman.
The total 3DELRR (3 Dimension Expeditionary Long Range Radar) contract value is estimated at $71M, and it requires the Raytheon-led team to produce an additional 3 radars. In the long run, the Air Force plans to procure 29 more radars for a grand total of 35 sensor systems. The total contract effort could span decades and possibly net $1B for the team. In addition, since “exportability” features were baked into the design UP FRONT, Raytheon will have the opportunity to sell many more radars to US allies all over the world without having to be concerned about US foreign technology transfer restrictions.
Since we’re not talkin’ chump change here, you can infer that the losing competitors were not at all happy with the Air Force’s decision – despite the delay to ensure a fair evaluation. But of course, as is standard practice with big government contracts, both losers filed formal protests of the award with the US government’s GAO (General Accounting Office) after they were formally debriefed on why they lost. NG did not publicly specify the grounds for its protest, but LM proclaimed that their offering was “the most affordable and capable solution.”
The need to allow for contract award protests is obvious: to ensure that no hanky-panky occurred behind the scenes during the decision-making process. However, since the chances of being successful are small and the protest process is normally a huge waste of time and money for all involved parties, you would think that controls would be in place to prevent every single big ticket award to be protested willy-nilly. But alas, no matter what controls are in effect, a desperate loser can always find a cadre of clever lawyers to skirt the rules.