On March 16, 2018, the Department of the Air Force awarded Raytheon Technologies [RTX] a seven-year, $511 million contract award for operations and maintenance of the AN/FPS-108 Cobra Dane missile defense and space situational awareness radar at Eareckson Air Station in Shemya, Alaska, but BAE Systems challenged the award (Defense Daily, Apr. 6, 2018). At the time, BAE Systems told the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that it gave the Air Force “a very strong proposal, offering the best value, to address the operations, maintenance and sustainment needs outlined” in the request for proposals.
“BAE contends that the agency misevaluated proposals, failed to engage in adequate discussions and made an unreasonable selection decision,” GAO General Counsel Thomas H. Armstrong wrote in an Apr. 13, 2018 unpublished decision on the BAE Systems’ challenge. “Subsequent to the filing of this protest, the agency advised our office that it intends to reopen discussions, solicit, obtain and evaluate revised proposals, and make a new selection decision. The agency’s proposed corrective action renders the protest academic. We do not consider academic protests because to do so would serve no useful public policy purpose…The protest is dismissed.”
Last week, Defense Daily asked GAO for the decision, and the agency emailed the unpublished, so-called “nondigested” decision to Defense Daily on Jan. 18. GAO said that it does not retain “nondigested” decision information older than one year on the GAO website section devoted to bid protests and bid protest decisions.
The terms of the 2018 Raytheon contract cover work until 2025.
Cobra Dane “was operationally fielded in 1977 and later underwent a major system modernization program that was completed in 1993,” Space Force said, adding that the radar “is undergoing a number of modernization and mini service life extension program (SLEP) efforts” for its missions, which also comprise cataloging near-earth orbiting satellites, including space debris, and providing early observation of “new foreign launches.”
Space Force has said that Cobra Dane operations may last until 2030 and that the $1.6 billion Space Fence radar system by Lockheed Martin [LMT] is to take on many of Cobra Dane’s roles. Located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the solid-state S-band Space Fence radar system achieved initial operational capability on March 27, 2020.
Cobra Dane’s “mission equipment and associated sustainment suites consist of a mix of unique, custom-built components that are increasingly difficult to maintain on a 45-year-old radar due to non-availability of replacement parts,” Space Force said last year. “Subsystems are no longer supported by the original equipment manufacturers. In addition, transmitter groups, traveling wave tubes, time delay units and all associated components and spares require replacement. Due to the limited demand rates for spares, and indefinite system lifespan, life-of-type buys may be required to support this weapon system. Without these replacements, there is a high risk that equipment failures will cause unacceptable mission downtime. Funding may be used to address Diminishing Manufacturing Sources (DMS) issues.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) has pushed for extending the life of Cobra Dane, as the Pentagon considers radar modernization options for countering Russian and Chinese hypersonic missiles.