Defense contractor Raytheon recently received an additional $12.2 million to continue work on a major priority — and a concern — for the aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.
The work will center on the ship's dual band radar (DBR) system. It is one of several new technologies on the next-generation ship, which will be delivered to the Navy later this year. The Ford is currently being outfitted at Newport News Shipbuilding.
Like other new systems on the Ford, dual band radar is taking longer than expected to finalize. Tests of the new system at Wallops Island have been extended from 2015 into this year, officials have said.
The Pentagon's chief weapons tester, J. Michael Gilmore, told a Senate panel in October: "The Navy is concerned about the amount of testing that remains to be completed as the DBR is integrated with the rest of the (Ford) combat system."
Gilmore said he agreed with the Navy's decision to extend testing, "although it will have a ripple effect on other testing efforts."
The $12.2 million awarded last month to Raytheon Co. Integration Defense Systems covers engineering services to deal with "numerous system integration schedule risks that are being tracked by the DBR program," according to the Pentagon's announcement.
The original contract was awarded in March for nearly $27 million. At the time, work was expected to end in December 2015. The $12.2 million extension notes that work should end by December 2016.
The contract's total value, if all options are exercised, would be more than $50 million, according to the Defense Department.
The next Ford-class carrier won't have dual-band radar. The Navy plans to purchase an alternative system to save costs on the John F. Kennedy, currently under construction at the Newport News shipyard.
Dual band radar, as the name suggests, is composed of two radars. It will replace the twirling antennas and dishes on the older Nimitz-class carriers. The Navy says dual band radar requires less maintenance and fewer sailors to operate.
Before the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon planned to introduce dual band radar on the USS George H.W. Bush, the last of the Nimitz-class ships. It was part of a larger strategy to incorporate new technology over several carriers, according to congressional testimony.
That changed in 2002 when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered a re-examination of the carrier program. It eventually resulted in technology that was intended for deployment across three ships to be incorporated onto the Ford, the lead ship.
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